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IPU committee renews call for de Lima release, to continue monitoring trial

A committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) renewed its call for detained former Senator Leila de Lima to be released adding that it would continue observing and monitoring her trial.

A decision adopted by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians called for the immediate release of de Lima, for the legal proceedings against her to be dropped, and for authorities to take the necessary action.

It also requested that an IPU trial observer be allowed to continue monitoring and reporting on respect for the fair-trial standards in cases before branches 205 and 256 of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City.

“The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians expresses grave concern that six years after she was first charged, Ms. de Lima continues to languish in detention, even after the key witness against her in one of the two remaining cases stated that he had been forced by the former executive authorities to testify against her,” it read.

De Lima was jailed in 2017 for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as Justice Secretary.

Key witnesses — confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos — recanted their testimonies against de Lima.

Espinosa recanted his sworn statements during a Senate joint committee, saying that he was “coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened” by the police to implicate the senator.

Ragos followed suit and retracted his claim, adding that then-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre threatened him into making false allegations against her.

He also apologized and said she should be cleared of charges.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) last May said the retracted statements were “highly suspicious” and “questionable,” and that it was up to the court to decide if the recantations would impact previous testimonies.

Malacañang, under former President Rodrigo Duterte, said the public should let the law run its course, claiming that the case has “nothing to do with her views with the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs or her affiliation to the political opposition.”

Before her detainment, de Lima had been vocal against the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs and said she was prepared to be the first “political prisoner” of President Rodrigo Duterte administration. — DVM, GMA Integrated News