Hontiveros renews call to free De Lima
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday renewed her call to free detained former senator Leila de Lima.
De Lima marked her sixth year in detention last February 24 due to what she branded as “trumped-up” drug charges. She is a staunch critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who launched the bloody drug war.
“If the Senate as a body can recommend the filing of charges against individuals and personalities that violate the laws of these land, surely we can recommend the dropping of charges against those who are victimized by these laws and those who need the law and the Constitution’s protective mantle,” Hontiveros said in a privilege speech during the plenary session.
“A few days after we commemorated the sixth anniversary of her detention, I say Mr. President, dear colleagues, and I hope you say with me: Free Leila now,” she added.
The opposition senator noted that the Inter Parliamentary Union, the oldest and largest organization of parliaments in the world, as well as local and international organizations reiterated its push to release the former senator.
Hontiveros said that the right to a speedy trial is an “actionable” right.
“It is a right afforded to all citizens, and a right that Senator Leila may legitimately avail of. This is not about being in the opposition. This is not about the past or present administrations. This is simply the invocation of a human right that all Filipinos are entitled to,” she said.
Hontiveros also cited the Supreme Court’s ruling on the petition of Gigi Reyes, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s former chief of staff, who has been in detention since 2014 for plunder.
“It said that, ‘[w]hile the writ is generally not available to a person whose liberty is under custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge, when such custody becomes vexatious, capricious, and oppressive amounting to an infringement on the constitutional right to speedy trial of an accused, the writ of habeas corpus may be provisionally availed of,’” Hontiveros said.
The senator likewise pointed out that several witnesses, including former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos, recanted their testimony against de Lima.
Of the three drug cases against de Lima, the court dismissed one in 2021.
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