By Mario Casayuran
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and prominent national leaders have renewed their demand for the immediate and unconditional release of opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima, a political enemy of President Duterte.
Their demand was contained in a press statement sent to media by De Lima’s office.
Through her Facebook account, Sereno denounced the Duterte administration’s continued detention saying De Lima’s right to speedy trial has been “grossly violated.”
De Lima, justice secretary during the Benigno ‘’Noynoy’’ C. Aquino III presidency, has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) detention center for alleged illegal drugs-related charges.
“By all measures of fairness, she has been dealt with most unjustly. She has been effectively penalized and adjudged guilty, by detaining her for 1000 days, by the sheer inaction of the justice system,” Sereno said.
“At this point, the only way for the system to be just is to release her. Let her go home and be with her family again. That is the least we can do for a fellow Filipino,” she added.
De Lima, considered as the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte administration, marked her 1,000th day in ‘’unjust and illegal detention’’ under the Duterte administration last Nov. 20.
Her former colleagues, family, friends and supporters protested her plight and rallied for her freedom by participating in simultaneous indignation runs and celebrating the Holy Mass held in Quezon City and Iriga City, Camarines Sur on the same day.
Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno expressed their solidarity with De Lima.
They urged the Filipino public to continue fighting for her freedom and speaking out against the abuses against her.
“Hindi tama itong mga nararanasan ni Sen. De Lima. Dapat tutulan. Dapat tayong manindigan. Dapat nating ipaglaban ang kanyang kapakanan at kanyang kaligtasan at ang kanyang kalayaan,” said Pangilinan. (The continued detention of Senator de Lima is not right. It should be crticized. We should fight for her welfare, safety and her freedom.)
Calling the illegal drug trading charges against De Lima as baseless, Diokno expressed optimism that “Balang araw ay lalabas din ang katotohanan at mananaig din ang katarungan, at hanggang dumating ang araw na iyon, kasama tayo ni Sen. Leila sa labang ito.”(One day, the truth will come out and justice will prevail. Until then, we are with Senator De Lima in this fight.)
His statement might be short and precise but former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV did not fail to point out that the drug charges against De Lima was a mere invention by Mr. Duterte, who perceives the former justice secretary as his political enemy.
“‘Drug charges versus de Lima are true.’ Wait, Duterte said that I have offshore bank accounts, too, until… he had no choice but to admit that he invented them. This man is pure evil!” Trillanes wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, through their respective social media posts, civic leader Samira Gutoc and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay urged the Duterte government to free De Lima.
Gutoc said the protector of justice should “Free Senator Leila de Lima and prove that justice still prevails in the Philippines” while Hilbay said the government should “End 1000 days of injustice against Leila de Lima. Set Her Free.”
Human Rights Group Karapatan, for its part, said De Lima’s incarceration is “a stark example of the Duterte government’s vindictiveness against critics,” including those who initiate probes into alleged involvement of Duterte on extrajudicial killings.
“Karapatan expresses its solidarity in the call for her immediate release and for the dismissal of the trumped-up charges filed against her,” it said.
Ahead of De Lima’s 1,000th day in unjust detention, Vice President Leni Robredo released a video message urging the government to release the Senator and drop all politically-motivated illegal drug trading charges against her.