De Lima hospitalized days after being held hostage in Philippine detention center

Aie Balagtas See and Jeoffrey Maitem
De Lima hospitalized days after being held hostage in Philippine detention center Former Sen. Leila de Lima waves to supporters as she arrives for a court hearing in Muntinlupa, Philippines, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022.
Aaron Favila/AP

Detained ex-Sen. Leila de Lima has been admitted to a hospital for treatment of heart-related issues, the national police chief said Wednesday, three days after an inmate took her hostage and threatened to kill her. 

Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said de Lima, 63, has been staying at the Philippine National Police general hospital since Monday, a day after the incident that left three dead, including de Lima’s attacker. 

“Her condition remains stable and she is being monitored daily by her attending physician. As for security, she is provided 24 hours security detail. She is undergoing medication and the latest health bulletin will be released at the soonest possible time,” he told reporters. 

De Lima had declined an offer from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to be transferred out of the Camp Crame detention center after the incident. Azurin said the senator could remain in the hospital while her cell was being scoured by police investigators. 

On Sunday, three detainees facing criminal charges for their alleged links with terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Dawlah Islamiyah – the Filipino name for the Islamic State – attacked and injured an officer during breakfast.

Responding officers fatally shot two of the attackers while the third ran toward de Lima’s cell and threatened to kill the former senator while holding her hostage. He too was gunned down after a brief standoff. 

Despite her ordeal, and prior to going to the hospital, de Lima appeared for a brief court hearing Monday into one of the cases against her. She waved to supporters but appeared haggard.

Rights groups have urged the central government to provisionally release de Lima, who faces trials on two drug-related charges after a court dismissed a similar complaint against her. They note that three of the government’s witnesses against de Lima have backtracked, saying they had been coerced into testifying against the former senator. 

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr., who met with de Lima on Sunday before testing positive for COVID-19, said a furlough could be difficult. 

“[F]or a detainee, a furlough is a very big thing. Remember before, my dad was also incarcerated, almost one year. So for us, one day, even just seeing him during hearings, riding in a car with him, you would be very happy already,” Abalos told reporters.  

“It is really difficult. So, I could just understand this furlough [request]. But again, I would like to reiterate, it’s for our judicial system, for the judiciary to decide,” he said. 

Abalos said de Lima’s lawyer told officials that the senator was “rethinking” the transfer offer.

“They said they would look at the other facilities.  The concern of the president here is that she had a very traumatic experience. Even if the incident is now over, she might visualize it again while she’s inside her room,” Abalos said.

Drug war critic

De Lima was one of the staunchest critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war that left thousands dead. Duterte’s government accused the senator of profiting from drug dealers when she served as justice secretary in the previous administration of Benigno Aquino III. She has been jailed and awaiting trial since 2017.

About 8,000 suspected addicts and dealers died during the Duterte administration’s drug war, according to official government figures, but human rights groups have said the figure could be three times higher.

On Wednesday, Marcos’ office said the president would not intervene in the pending cases against the former senator.

“We’ll leave it up to the court to decide if she’s going to be freed based on the evidence or merits of her case,” spokeswoman Cheloy Garafil told reporters. 


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