Philippine court grants bail to Duterte drugs war critic

Philippine court grants bail to Duterte drugs war critic

MANILA — A leading critic of former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was granted bail on Monday after almost seven years in jail on charges related to his bloody war on drugs.

Former senator Leila de Lima is accused of receiving drug money in a case that she says is politically motivated.

Many witnesses against her have retracted their testimony since Mr Duterte’s term ended last year.

There has also been international pressure for her release.

Ms De Lima will be freed on bail even as Duterte faces an International Criminal Court investigation for alleged crimes against humanity. Roughly 7,000 suspected drug dealers were summarily executed during the six-year-long campaign, according to Amnesty International.

The European Union’s ambassador to the Philippines, Luc Veron, said he was “very pleased by the news of [Ms de Lima’s] release”.

“A significant step for #RuleOfLaw in the Philippines. A positive turn in the pursuit of justice! I hope that resolution of the remaining charges will be accelerated,” Veron said on X, formerly Twitter.

Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, has also scaled back the anti-drug campaign since taking over last June.

Ms De Lima served five years of her six-year term as senator from behind bars. She also lost her bid for re-election in 2022.

She was Duterte’s most persistent critic during his 28-year tenure as mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao, up to his election as president in 2016. She was chairperson of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights and later justice minister when Duterte was mayor.

As president, Rodrigo Duterte replicated his drug war in Davao on a national scale — police conducted door-to-door searches and suspects were shot for allegedly resisting arrest. Several investigations later uncovered police abuses.

Aside from the criminal proceedings, Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives held marathon televised hearings on the allegations against Ms De Lima.

They also uncovered embarrassing details about her affair with her driver, who initially said that he delivered bribe money to Ms De Lima but later withdrew his statement. — BBC

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