Philippine court denies bail for Duterte critic: Lawyer

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Jailed Philippine human rights activist Leila de Lima was denied bail Wednesday on the remaining drug trafficking charge filed against her during former president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, her lawyer said.

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De Lima, one of the most outspoken local critics of Duterte and his deadly drug war, has been detained for more than six years on charges she insists were fabricated to silence her.

“Sad to inform you that the Court denied Sen. Leila’s bail application,” her lawyer Filibon Tacardon said in a message to journalists.

The decision followed another court’s verdict on May 12 that acquitted the former senator and justice minister of a separate drug trafficking charge.

The mother of two is accused of taking money from inmates inside the country’s largest prison in exchange for allowing them to sell drugs while justice minister from 2010 to 2015 under then-leader Benigno Aquino.

She initially faced three charges. Two have been dismissed as the prosecution’s case falls apart, with multiple witnesses dying or recanting their testimonies.

De Lima, 63, faces the specter of life in prison if she is convicted on the remaining charge.

Since President Ferdinand Marcos came into office last June there have been renewed calls from human rights groups, foreign diplomats and politicians for de Lima’s release.

While in jail she has suffered various health problems, including a pelvic organ prolapse that required surgery.

In October 2022, she was briefly taken hostage during an attempted breakout by three detained militants.

Before her arrest on February 24, 2017, de Lima had spent a decade investigating “death squad” killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as Davao City mayor and in the early days of his presidency.

She conducted the probes while serving as the nation’s human rights commissioner, and then from 2010 to 2015 as justice minister in the Aquino administration that preceded Duterte’s rule.

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