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Rights groups welcome de Lima’s acquittal

Other political detainees must also be freed, Karapatan says

Human rights organizations welcomed the dismissal of the last of the drug charges against former senator Leila de Lima and called for the freedom of all other political prisoners in the country.

Rights group Karapatan said it welcomes de Lima’s court victory after the last of the four drug-related charges was dismissed by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court by granting her motion for demurrer to evidence.

“Sen. Leila is victim of unjust arrest and detention, and we support her efforts to pursue justice against those who perpetrated these acts of reprisal and judicial harassment against her because of her vocal opposition to the extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war,” Karapatan said.

“We commend the recent court decision acquitting former Senator Leila de Lima of all charges filed against her. This outcome serves as a powerful reminder that lies will never prevail, especially against those who are persecuted for their advocacy and defense of human rights,” the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates said in a separate statement.

Amnesty International also welcomed the dismissal of the “bogus charges,” saying it is full freedom and vindication for de Lima after nearly seven years of arbitrary detention and relentless political persecution.

A demurrer is a motion filed on the argument that the prosecutor’s evidence is insufficient for a conviction. It effectively dismisses all the charges against an accused if granted by the court. 

De Lima earned the ire of the Rodrigo Duterte regime by spearheading Senate investigations on the drug-war killings ordered by the former president.

Duterte has accused de Lima of herself being a drug-protector, using her powers as justice secretary under the Benigno Aquino government to operate drug-manufacturing and distribution operations from the country’s main jail facility.

Hundreds of other de Limas

In the light of the development, Karapatan reiterated its call for the release all political prisoners it said face trumped up charges like de Lima.

The group said the 768 political detainees in the country, like the former senator, are being persecuted for being human rights defenders.

Karapatan cited the case of trade union organizer and researcher Ernesto Jude Rimando who suffers from advanced stage of liver cancer but has been denied his petition for release on cognizance.

“We likewise renew the call for justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings during the Duterte regime, including the thousands killed in the drug war and those killed on the pretext of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign,” Karapatan said.

“They deserve justice, and those accountable for these grave rights violations should be punished,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)