Manila, Philippines — Former senator Leila De Lima has been denied bail by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) for criminal case no. 67. The court stated that it did not find De Lima’s grounds for bail compelling, and her plea for provisional liberty on humanitarian considerations is “untenable.” De Lima’s defense team is set to file a motion for reconsideration.

De Lima had pleaded for temporary freedom on the grounds that she is now a senior citizen with several health issues. However, the court said that she is “not suffering from any serious or life-threatening health condition.” It also noted that De Lima’s brief hostage-taking incident in October 2022 was an isolated event.

The court cited that the prosecution proved prima facie the alleged agreement among the accused to commit illegal drug trading. It added that minor discrepancies in the prosecution witnesses’ testimony do not weaken their position. The court stressed that it is not prejudging the final outcome of the case, and the culpability or innocence of the accused will only be decided based on all the evidence presented after trial on the merits of the case.

Two out of De Lima’s three-drug charges have already been dismissed. Her defense team believes that the testimonies of convicted criminals against De Lima are not trustworthy, especially if they hold a grudge against the accused.

De Lima, a stalwart critic of the last Duterte administration, has been detained at Camp Crame since 2017 over allegations of her involvement in the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. Her youngest brother expressed disappointment about the court’s decision, hoping that his sister would be free soon.

Meanwhile, Jesus Crispin Remulla, our Justice secretary suggested De Lima’s camp should have filed a petition immediately for habeas corpus or grounded their arguments on humanitarian reasons rather than challenging the merits of the case. In February 2021, one of the three-drug cases against De Lima was dismissed, while the second case was acquitted in May 2022 by another Muntinlupa RTC. The dismissal and acquittal of De Lima’s drug charges have led her supporters to celebrate and ask for her immediate release.

The next hearings for De Lima’s case are set for June 19 and June 26. Even though De Lima is still in detention, she remains vocal in criticizing the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of alleged drug users and pushers in the country. Many human rights advocates have condemned De Lima’s detention as politically motivated and a form of harassment against those who speak out against the government.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson hailed the court’s ruling as another triumph for the rule of law, emphasizing that the government has no hand in the court’s decision-making process. De Lima’s case has drawn international attention, with several countries and organizations calling for her release, citing concerns about human rights abuses and political persecution in the Philippines.

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