Philippines: Release of Senator Leila de Lima urged on the one-year anniversary of her detention

Press release

Paris-Geneva, February 23, 2018 - The Observatory condemns Philippine Senator Leila de Lima’s arbitrary and politically motivated detention, and calls for her immediate release and for all charges against her to be dropped. Tomorrow will mark one year since Senator de Lima, a critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was detained on unsubstantiated drug charges.

"Senator de Lima’s arbitrary detention is aimed at silencing her and intimidating other lawmakers and government critics from speaking out against the brutal killings that have been carried out as part of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs.’ She should be immediately released and all charges against her dropped,”

FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard

On February 24, 2017, Ms. Leila de Lima handed herself in to police, a week after the Department of Justice filed three charges against her under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, and a day after a Manila court issued a warrant for her arrest. The charges were related to de Lima’s alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring inside the New Bilibid Prison in Metro Manila’s Muntinlupa City, while she was Department of Justice Secretary. If convicted, de Lima could face between 12 years and life in prison.

De Lima has been a staunch critic of President Duterte’s approach to combatting crimes and drug trafficking. In 2009, as Chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR), she initiated a probe into Duterte’s involvement in the ‘Davao Death Squad’ during his time as mayor of Davao City. In August 2016, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, de Lima convened hearings on the hundreds of killings that had been carried out as part of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs.’ On September 19, 2016, a group of Senators voted to replace de Lima as Chair of the Committee, effectively shutting down the hearings.

President Duterte has repeatedly targeted de Lima. Prior to her imprisonment, he had pledged to “destroy her in public.” He also made personal attacks against her, accusing de Lima of “immorality” for allegedly having had an affair with her driver.

"The attacks on Senator de Lima’s reputation and the fabricated charges brought against her are a direct retaliation for criticizing President Duterte’s full frontal attack on human rights. De Lima’s prosecution reflects the increasingly difficult environment that human rights defenders face in the Philippines under President Duterte"

OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock

De Lima has been in pre-trial detention at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Manila’s Camp Crame since her arrest. Bail is not permitted under the charges and de Lima’s arraignment in all three cases has been delayed as the Department of Justice is still amending its information. This is contrary to Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Philippines is a State party. Article 9(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge is entitled to trial “within a reasonable time or to release,” and that the detention of persons awaiting trial should not be “the general rule.”

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Press contacts:
· FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94 / Audrey Couprie: +33 6 48 05 91 57
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39

Read more