Several Filipino politicians have reacted to the Muntinlupa court’s decision to grant former senator Leila De Lima and her co-accused P300,000 bail for her remaining drug case on Monday, Nov. 13. While some of them welcomed it, others weren't so keen on the news.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros noted how De Lima’s spirit “remains unbowed” despite the detention that lasted for almost seven years.
"Alongside countless other Filipinos, I am immensely happy for my friend and former colleague in the Senate," she said. "I know that after years of isolation, she is coming back to the loving company of her family, friends, and supporters."
Hontiveros noted that De Lima’s release "is the beginning of the end to this shameful episode in our democracy."
“Ang nakakalungkot at nakakagalit,” she said, “hindi na mababawi ang maraming taon na ninakaw at ipinagkait kay dating Senadora de Lima dahil lamang sa kasinungalingan ng iilan.”
Former vice president Leni Robredo said they’ve long waited for this day. "Pinatutunayang muli ngayon na walang basehan ang mga paratang laban kay Senator Leila," she said.
"Through all these years, Sen. Leila has been a source of inspiration for us. Her courage and her faith lent so many of us the resolve to continue fighting the good fight, to speak truth to power, and to keep believing that the Filipino people deserve so much more," she added.
Former senator Sonny Trillanes, through the Magdalo group, called De Lima’s release "the biggest step in her quest for justice and redemption."
“The whole world will now know how Duterte misused and abused power to persecute those who dared stand up to his murderous regime,” Trillanes said of former president Rodrigo Duterte, whom De Lima and her supporters accused of being behind the charges against her.
For lawyer Tony La Viña of the nonprofit Movement Against Disinformation, the long-awaited decision "not only reaffirms our confidence in the legal system but also underscores the fundamental principles of fairness, equity, and the Rule of Law."
“It is crucial to note that Senator De Lima has endured seven years of detention,” La Viña said, “and those responsible for this injustice must be held accountable.”
He said they “eagerly anticipate” the complete resolution of all remaining cases against De Lima, and are calling for the release of all political prisoners.
Bryony Lay, deputy Asia director of the non-government organization Human Rights Watch, said De Lima “never should have been unjustly prosecuted and detained” by Duterte, “whose administration concocted evidence and used the machinery of an abusive state to punish her for performing her duties as a senator and speaking out against the ‘war on drugs.’”
“De Lima’s struggle has inspired a generation of human rights defenders in the Philippines and beyond,” Lay said. “We wish her well.”
De Lima's critics on the court decision
De Lima's critics have also shared their reaction to the news, stressing their respect for the court and its decisions.
"I always respect court decisions as I always observe separation of powers,” Sen. Roland "Bato" Dela Rosa, a staunch ally of Duterte, told the media. When asked about whether de Lima’s remaining case will be dismissed, the former Philippine National Police chief refused to comment.
Duterte’s former spokesman Harry Roque, for his part, said that while he disagrees with the decision, he still respects it.
"Hindi man tayo sumang-ayon sa desisyon na 'yan, nirerespeto natin 'yan dahil 'yan po ang naging husgado ng hukuman," he told Teleradyo Serbisyo.
"Pero ako po ay may alinlangan diyan dahil ibig sabihin niyan, pinaniniwalaan na ngayon ng hukuman ang mga papalit-palit na bersyon ng mga testigo," he continued.
The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch Branch 206 on Nov. 13 granted bail to De Lima, ex-Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayu, former aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and alleged bagman Jose Adrian Dera.
De Lima served five years of her six-year term as senator in police detention, starting on Feb. 24, 2017, during the Duterte administration.
She was one of his fiercest critics amid his bloody war on drugs or Oplan Tokhang. As then-commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights in 2009, she launched an investigation into the "death squad" killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as Davao City mayor and in the early days of his presidency.
After winning a Senate seat in the 2016 elections that also swept populist Duterte to power, De Lima became one of the few opposition voices.
Duterte then accused her of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals when she was justice secretary, forcing her from the Senate and into a jail cell.
De Lima lost her bid for re-election in May 2022 after campaigning from behind bars.
Throughout the legal proceedings, De Lima has insisted the charges against her had been trumped up in retaliation for going after Duterte and his drug war that killed thousands of people.
Several key witnesses also gave their testimonies regarding De Lima’s alleged crimes but have already retracted their statements. (with reports from AFP)