Prisoner of conscience and former senator Leila de Lima has been detained for over five years, as new government leaders, including Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, assume their posts beginning July 1, 2022. While the previous justice secretary announced they will not drop the charges against her, new Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has said he is open to reviewing her cases after three witnesses retracted their testimonies against her. We call on the new administration to carry out this review urgently and impartially, with a view to dropping the charges against Leila and ensuring her immediate release.
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Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra
Department of Justice
Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila 10020
Republic of the Philippines
Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez
Embassy of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202 467 9300 I Fax: 202 328 7614
Email: [email protected]
Dear Secretary Remulla,
I write to urge your office to impartially and expeditiously review the two charges against prisoner of conscience and former senator Leila de Lima, with a view to dropping these charges and ensuring her immediate and unconditional release. Following the retraction by several witnesses of their allegations against her, it now more clearly appears that the charges she continues to face are false and politically motivated. This gross injustice against her must end now.
We welcome your earlier statement that the dropping of the charges against Leila is “possible”, after several witnesses recanted their testimonies against her. These witnesses cited pressure, coercion and threats from the police and high-level officials to falsely and maliciously implicate her in the illegal drug trade. What is most disturbing is that one of these witnesses is currently a prosecution witness whose original testimony has been cited as the reason for the continuation of the trial against her.
The continued detention of Leila clearly violates her right to presumption of innocence – which is absolute and can never be derogated from, restricted, or limited – and other fair trial guarantees. For over five years, she has been a victim of vicious attacks and political persecution for her human rights work. She should not have been detained in the first place, but her immediate release is the least that the new Philippine government could do to rectify this grave injustice, and demonstrate that it is serious about restoring respect for human rights.
I therefore call on your office to:
- Drop all charges against Leila now and ensure her immediate and unconditional release;
- Conduct thorough, independent and impartial investigations into those responsible for her arbitrary detention and ensure full accountability for the years of human rights violations she has had to endure; and
- Promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations by witnesses that they were coerced by senior officials to commit perjury, while ensuring their safety and security in light of the gravity of such allegations and the possible involvement of high-level officials.