[dropcap font="" size="50px" background="" color="" circle="0" transparent="0"]F[/dropcap]or five long years, Senator Leila de Lima, longtime critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” has been in jail on charges alleging that she received money from drug lords while serving as justice secretary. De Lima and her supporters, including international right groups, have decried the charges as false and politically motivated.
Finally, the truth is coming out for the prisoner of conscience. Recently, two key witnesses in the Philippine government’s case against her retracted their testimonies.
One witness, a former corrections chief, says his testimony that he delivered money from drug lords to de Lima was false. He claims that Duterte’s former justice secretary had “coerced“
him into testifying against the senator. The other witness — a “self-confessed drug lord,” according to BusinessWorld
— says the police had coerced him into testifying against the senator.
The retractions show that de Lima is a victim of retaliation. The former chair of the Commission on Human Rights incurred Duterte’s ire for launching the 2009 investigation of the so-called Davao Death Squad. The investigation implicated Duterte, who was then mayor of Davao City in southern Philippines.
Duterte later vowed to “destroy
” de Lima. During his administration, she endured
misogynistic attacks and an extensive disinformation campaign. The opposition senator launched a fact-checking website called "True Leila Project
" to combat the lies against her.
The sitting senator has been deprived of the use of a computer, cell phone, the Internet, or any other electronic device to communicate with others while in detention. But this hasn’t stopped de Lima from filing over 600 bills and resolutions in the senate. De Lima authored the law on the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program
, which gives conditional cash grants to
the poorest Filipino families.
She is running for re-election in today’s national and local elections. Whether de Lima wins or loses, she vows to go after her oppressors once she’s free. “There has to be justice. There has to be accountability,” she says in an interview with Rappler
Watch called for the immediate dropping of the charges against de Lima and her release from custody.