‘De Lima should not have been jailed in the first place’

Photo from the official Facebook Page of former Sen. Leila de Lima


MANILA – Human rights groups assailed the continuing detention of former senator Leila De Lima, who was held hostage in the morning of October 9, saying she should not have been jailed in the first place.

“In the first place, Sen. Leila de Lima shouldn’t be in jail over preposterous, retaliatory and baseless charges. Many political prisoners like her have always faced dangers and threats to their security even in prison. She should be released immediately,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier offered De Lima to be transferred to another detention facility, where she has been detained since 2017.

As it stands, one of the three drug-related cases against De Lima has already been dismissed. Earlier today, the former senator arrived at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court as the hearing of the two trumped-up charges against her resumed.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Carlos Conde said he was horrified by the hostage-taking of De Lima and that this underscores the “compelling need to release her from police detention.”

“The Philippine government has held her hostage the past five years for her human rights advocacy. The international community, which is now keen on working with the Marcos administration in spite of the many human rights issues it faces, should exert pressure on President Marcos to end De Lima’s suffering and return her to her family and friends,” Conde said.

What happened?

In her affidavit, De Lima said the hostage-taking happened at around 6:40 a.m. on Oct. 9, while she was praying the rosary inside her detention facility at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Armed with an ice pick, her assailant told her that she needed to come with him as he would be killed. With her hands tied and an ice pick aimed at her chest, the former senator said she was dragged out of her detention room, and later brought to another room, where she was blindfolded and her feet tied together.

“I asked him if we could go out as I was having difficulty breathing and my chest hurt as he continued to point the ice pick / screwdriver. He refused, saying there were many snipers outside. I asked him not to point the dagger too hard,” she said in Filipino.

De Lima said she prayed as her captor continued to threaten her (“they will kill me, you might as well die with me.)

Later, she heard gunshots and could feel that she was being brought out of the room as she was still tied and blindfolded.

“It is deeply alarming that human rights defender and former Senator Leila de Lima was held hostage by another detainee inside no less than the headquarters of the Philippine National Police. That she has had to endure this traumatizing and frightening experience on top of being arbitrarily detained for over five years now is the height of outrage, negligence and injustice,” said Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines Director.

Five years of unjust detention

Olano reiterated that the charges and evidence against the former senator are fabricated and manufactured.

“Her immediate release is the least that the Marcos administration could do to rectify her situation. Anything less – including President Marcos’ offer to transfer her to a different detention facility – is a perpetuation of this grave injustice against her,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement posted on her official Facebook Page, De Lima thanked all who expressed their concern for her well-being, saying that she is now safe and sound “except for the lingering pain on my chest where the hostage-taker pressed the point of his knife.”

“I have already endured more than five years of unjust detention inside the PNP Custodial Center. It was therefore farthest from my mind that on top of this ordeal, I also had to survive the knife of a fellow detainee (reportedly an Abu Sayyaf member) who took me hostage in a desperate attempt to make known their grievances to the public,” she said.

De Lima said, “while I am still trying to recover psychologically and emotionally from this harrowing experience, I am sure of one thing that I learned from it. Being so near death has only made me value life even more.” (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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