ELECTIONS 2022: Free De Lima calls amplify

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Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges, looks at a flower given by her supporter upon arrival at a local court to face an obstruction of justice complaint in Quezon city, metro Manila, Philippines March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges, looks at a flower given by her supporter upon arrival at a local court to face an obstruction of justice complaint in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Several notable personalities and groups are now calling for the immediate end of Senator Leila de Lima's five-year detention after witnesses Kerwin Espinosa and Rafael Ragos retracted their statements citing coercion and threats.

Progressive senatorial candidates such as Neri Colmenares and Bong Labog were among those calling to free de Lima.

“No Filipino should be imprisoned based on false charges,” Labog said. “De Lima’s situation is a reminder of how rotten the justice system has become under President Duterte. This should change.”

“The recanting of Ragos and Espinosa should encourage more coerced witnesses to backtrack on their statements against De Lima and other human rights activists who face similar trumped-up charges,” Colmenares said. “They should save their dignity and reputation and tell all on how they were coerced into becoming weapons against Duterte’s critics and other political dissenters.”

Meanwhile, veteran lawyer Ted Te, counsel for one of the petitions calling to disqualify Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the upcoming 2022 national elections, mentioned that the statement of star witness Rafael Ragos “is crucial as it was the basis for the court to deny Sen. de Lima’s demurrer.”

“Now that it has been belied, the court should take action, require Ragos to take the stand and recant, and then dismiss the case,” he said.

Multisectoral people’s alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) did not leave themselves behind calling for de Lima’s emancipation.

“There is now no other logical and just recourse but to drop all charges against Leila de Lima and release her immediately,” they said. “Her incarceration has been proven unjust and politically motivated and has absolutely no material and legal basis to stand on. Let justice prevail and free Leila now.”

Ragos mentioned before that he was “coerced” into giving a statement against the senator by former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, while another witness Kerwin Espinosa claimed to be “intimidated” by the police.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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