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Philippines: Ex-senator Leila De Lima leaves jail

Senator Leila de Lima was investigating President Rodrigo Duterte when she was arrested and jailed

Senator Leila de Lima was investigating President Rodrigo Duterte when she was arrested and jailed

A Philippines court on Monday granted bail to Leila de Lima, a former human rights commissioner, justice minister and senator.

De Lima had been in jail for over six years on what she says were fabricated, politically motivated charges intended to silence her criticism of then president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his bloody war on drugs.

"Bail granted," wrote her lawyer Filibon Tacardon. Outside the court, Tacardon told reporters, "We're ecstatic, happy." He said de Lima, who cried upon receiving the news, was now a step closer to freedom after nearly seven years in prison. De Lima was in the courtroom when the decision was handed down.

In June, her team appealed a previous court decision denying her bail. Calls for her release grew louder after Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was elected president last year, with rights groups, politicians and foreign diplomats making their plea.

De Lima's investigation into ex-President Rodrigo Duterte's 'war on drugs'

De Lima spent 10 years investigating"death squad" executions said to have been orchestrated by Duterte while he was mayor of Davao City and early in his presidency. Her work began during her time as Philippines human rights commissioner and continued during her tenure as justice minister (2010-2015).

She was elected to the Senate in 2016, the same year Duterte became president after running on a tough "law and order" campaign. De Lima, one of the strongman's few critics, railed against his so-called "war on drugs," which saw gangs of police murdering thousands of individuals who they labeled drug sellers or users, often under dubious circumstances.

Duterte, who publicly demeaned her in speeches and instigated hate campaigns against her on social media, accused de Lima of working with criminals to run a prison drug-trafficking ring during her time as justice minister.

De Lima lost her 2022 Senate reelection bid, which she ran from prison.

De Lima's time in prison

De Lima suffered various health problems while in prison and was even taken hostage when three militants attempted a breakout in October 2022.

Two of the three charges against her were dropped after several witnesses died or recanted prior testimony.

Speaking with Reuters news agency on Monday, de Lima's lawyer Filibon Tacardon said, "She will hopefully be released today."

js/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)