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Free Leila: Coalition seeks release of senator

Sen. Leila de Lima

Sen. Leila de Lima. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE/
INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Supporters of detained Sen. Leila de Lima are gathering 1 million signatures to call for her immediate release from detention and the dismissal of nonbailable drug cases.

Free Leila Movement, a coalition of groups leading the signature drive, on Tuesday condemned the lawmaker’s continuous confinement in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, calling the allegations trumped-up charges and the evidence fake.

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Regina Mabalatan, the movement’s convenor, described the cases against De Lima as “defective.”

“Deposit slips have been fabricated and proven to be fake,” she said, referring to the evidence reportedly handled by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

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The lawmaker and vocal critic of the Duterte administration faced three cases in separate Muntinlupa courts for the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison.

She was also charged with “disobedience” before a Quezon City court for supposedly advising her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan to snub a congressional inquiry.

Mabalatan said the groups would also reach out to different schools to gather support, and would elevate the petition to the Supreme Court.

The high court also handles De Lima’s petition against her arrest and detention.

An online campaign through website Change.org was also put up.

Richard Alcantara of Democratic Alliance Movement of the Philippines-International said the group would still push through its petition despite its claims that the “judiciary is held by the administration.”

“We want to influence the court through the Filipinos’ united call for her release,” he said.

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De Lima has been detained in Camp Crame since February.

On Wednesday, delegates from the Inter-Parlimentary Union, a global organization of lawmakers, will visit De Lima in her detention center for a fact-finding mission.

Lawyer Lorelee Granado, her legal counsel, said the senator welcomes the visit, hoping it will put additional pressure on the administration concerning the human rights situation in the country.

Meanwhile, the DOJ is letting the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) decide on the plan of De Lima to participate in Senate deliberations on key measures.

Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes on Tuesday said Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 had jurisdiction over the issue since De Lima had already been indicted for drug trafficking.

But the DOJ spokesperson hinted that any action from Congress or the executive branch on De Lima’s request for occasional furloughs may be considered an intrusion into the independence of the judiciary.

“The DOJ respects the rule of law and the separation of powers of the [three separate] branches of government,” Balmes said in a text message.

Asked if the DOJ would block the opposition senator’s move, he said: “For now, it is still under study.”

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