THE TWO-MEMBER minority bloc in the Senate have filed a resolution urging the Justice department to release their former colleague, Leila M. de Lima, who has been detained since 2017 for her alleged involvement in illegal drug trade.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” L. Pimentel III and Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said the former senator’s arrest and incarceration were “unjust and arbitrary,” citing recent recantations by at least four key witnesses.
One of three cases against Ms. De Lima has been dismissed.
“With these series of recantations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Senator De Lima’s arrest and continued unjust detention was nothing more than a carefully orchestrated ploy to silence an outspoken critic and passionate human rights advocate,” the senators said in the resolution.
The drug charges against Ms. De Lima started after she led a Senate investigation of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs that has killed thousands.
In her previous post as head of the Commission on Human Rights, she also probed the assassination of suspected drug pushers by the so-called Davao Death Squad, allegedly upon the orders of Mr. Duterte when he was still the city mayor.
In her five years in detention, Ms. De Lima has repeatedly asserted her innocence, saying she was being prosecuted for criticizing Mr. Duterte’s drug war.
“We are asking the Department of Justice to withdraw the cases against Sen. Leila and release her. If I am not mistaken, early on in the administration, the Justice Secretary said that they will not prevent it. We take hope that this is another sign of hope,” Ms. Hontiveros said in a press conference with Mr. Pimentel on Tuesday.
The two lawmakers also expressed optimism that their role as the minority in the upper chamber will eventually gain support from their colleagues in the 19th Congress.
“We are ready but you might be surprised by the Senate. As time passes by, you will see the independent stand of our colleagues. They will help us perform the task of the minority,” Mr. Pimentel said.
“We will keep in touch with the minority in the house,” he added. “It’s just teamwork, you need good teamwork, time management and division of labor.”
“We are outnumbered, but always outnumbered, never outfought,” Ms. Hontiveros said. “On the issues that we have to stand up for, we will continuously work for.”
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” E. Angara has said that although there is a “supermajority” in the chamber, there is no absolute assurance that priority bills listed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. during his first address will swiftly pass in Congress.
“Although there is a lot of support there, other senators also have their own views, it will have to be discussed and debated,” he said in a statement. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan