Duterte supporters: Drug-war critic getting bail shows judiciary’s independence

BenarNews staff
Manila and Davao city, southern Philippines
Duterte supporters: Drug-war critic getting bail shows judiciary’s independence Former Sen. Leila de Lima waves to her supporters as she leaves police detention in Manila, Nov. 13, 2023.
[Gerard Carreon/BenarNews]

Supporters of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that the bail granted to an arch critic of his drug war demonstrated the judiciary’s independence and showed he was not involved in the case.

The United States meanwhile welcomed the release on Monday of former Sen. Leila de Lima from “detention on politically motivated charges” after nearly seven years in custody.

De Lima had been behind bars since 2017 on charges she described as a political vendetta by Duterte. She was granted bail in the last of three drug-related cases brought against her during Duterte’s term (2016-2022).

However, supporters of Duterte, who faces an International Criminal Court investigation, said the former president should not be blamed for de Lima’s long incarceration.

“The former president has no involvement in any case,” Sen. Imee Marcos, the sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., told reporters.

“No one can interfere with the judiciary. Let’s protect their independence.”

Relatives of drug war victims hold photographs of their slain loved ones with placards calling for justice, during a protest to mark then-President Rodrigo Duterte's final year in office, in Manila, June 30, 2021. [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

Duterte faces an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe for alleged crimes against humanity linked to drug-war deaths. More than 8,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers were killed during the war on narcotics launched by then-president in 2016, according to government figures.

Sen. Marcos cited the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court’s decision to free de Lima on bail to show that there was no need for the ICC to prosecute Duterte, because the Philippine justice system was independent enough.

“[Former] Sen. de Lima’s bail yesterday was a testament to that. The independence of the judiciary is present and true. Our court is a court of law and justice, oblivious of personalities or any political noise,” Sen. Marcos said.

President Marcos, who won the general election last year with backing from Duterte, has also cut off all communications with the ICC. Last year, Marcos said ICC investigators would not be allowed to enter the country.

The administration under Duterte, who once publicly said that de Lima deserved to rot in jail, had filed three charges against her of receiving payoffs from drug traffickers when she served as justice secretary between 2010 and 2015. The courts had earlier dismissed two other related cases for lack of evidence. 

‘God forgive him’

Shortly after her release on Monday, de Lima said she would consult with her lawyers to determine what cases she would file against the people behind her detention. She said she forgave Duterte, although there must also be accountability.

“God forgive him and God bless him. Let’s start there,” de Lima told a news conference Monday hours after the court granted her temporary liberty. “This is a moment of joy. As much as possible I want to be gracious.”

The United States, meanwhile, led the international community in hailing the release of de Lima.

The U.S. State Department urged the Philippines “to resolve the remaining case against her in a manner that is consistent with its international human rights obligations and commitments,” spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement Monday.

Several European countries also voiced their support for de Lima, and said that they were closely watching developments in the last case.

The envoys of France, the Netherlands, Australia and the European Union all welcomed de Lima’s release.

Gerard Carreon and Jojo Riñoza in Manila and Jeoffrey Maitem in Davao City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.


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