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Hontiveros renews call for De Lima's release at UNHRC

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday reiterated her call for the release of former Senator Leila de Lima, saying her continued detention even despite witnesses recanting their allegations is an “abomination.”

“It is an abomination for her to still be behind bars for five years now. It is especially absurd that she is still in detention when there have been three recantations of witness testimonies; testimonies that were allegedly crucial in the charges against her,” Hontiveros said in a pre-recorded speech during the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The senator said one witness had said he made the allegations against De Lima because he was coerced, another said he and his family were threatened by the police.

“Now that these testimonies have been disputed by the very people who gave them, it is only right and just that the government drop charges against Leila. She should be released from police custody. She should be given justice. She should be free,” Hontiveros said.

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly abetting the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison while serving as the Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015.  She has since denied the accusation.

One of her three cases was dismissed by a Muntinlupa court but the two remaining charges are still ongoing.

Calls for her release were renewed after self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, former Bureau of Corrections official Rafael Ragos and Marcelo Adorco retracted their drug allegations.

In July, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution 27 seeking to free de Lima from her “unjust and arbitrary detention" and urging the Department of Justice (DOJ)  to drop the remaining charges against the opposition figure.

DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, however, said the merits of the evidence would be decided upon by the courts.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros said she will continue upholding her duty as an “oppositionist and a conscientious fiscalizer” in the Senate as she expressed hope more opposition lawmakers will be elected in the 2025 midterm elections.—LDF, GMA News