Philippine human rights campaigner granted bail

It is not immediately clear when Leila de Lima, one of the most outspoken critics of ex-President Rodrigo Duterte, will walk free.

Leila de Lima
Human rights campaigner Leila de Lima waves as she leaves the Muntinlupa City Trial Court in Manila [File: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP]

Philippine human rights campaigner Leila de Lima has been granted bail, according to her lawyer, putting her a step closer to freedom after nearly seven years behind bars.

De Lima was “triumphant” on Monday after a judge granted her bail. One of the most outspoken critics of former President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly antidrug war, the activist was jailed on narcotics-related charges she says were fabricated to silence her.

It was not immediately clear when she would walk free.

“Bail granted,” lawyer Filibon Tacardon said in a message sent to reporters. Outside the court, he told the AFP news agenct: “We’re ecstatic, happy. Ma’am [de Lima] cried.”

De Lima, 64, is accused of taking money from inmates inside the largest prison in the Philippines to allow them to sell drugs while she was justice minister between 2010 and 2015.

However, multiple witnesses, including prison gang bosses, have died or recanted their testimonies, resulting in the dismissal of two of the three charges against de Lima.

Supporters of former Philippine senator and human rights campaigner Leila de Lima protest outside a court after she was acquitted on one of two remaining drug trafficking charges in Muntinlupa city, suburban Manila
Supporters of Leila de Lima protest outside a court after she was acquitted on one of two remaining drug trafficking charges in Muntinlupa city [File: Ted Aljibe/AFP]

Since President Ferdinand Marcos came into office last June, there have been renewed calls from human rights groups, foreign diplomats and politicians for de Lima’s release.

Before her arrest on February 24, 2017, de Lima had spent about 10 years investigating “death squad” killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as Davao City mayor and in the early days of his presidency.

She conducted the probes while serving as the nation’s human rights commissioner, and then from 2010 to 2015 as justice minister in the Aquino administration that preceded Duterte’s rule.

After winning a Senate seat in the 2016 elections that also swept populist Duterte to power, de Lima became one of the few opposition voices.

Duterte then accused her of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals when she was justice secretary, forcing her from the Senate and into a jail cell.

De Lima lost her bid for re-election in May 2022 after campaigning from behind bars.

Duterte, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a second term as president, stepped down the following month.

Throughout the proceedings, de Lima has insisted the charges against her had been trumped up in retaliation for going after Duterte and his drug war that killed thousands of people.

Source: AFP