05/03/2022, 00.00
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Anti-Duterte senator in jail since 2017: now her accuser recants

by Stefano Vecchia

Leila De Lima - former Minister of Justice under Aquino and proud opponent of the president's methods in the "war on drugs" - was arrested and convicted for alleged favors to a drug trafficker. Today Kerwin Espinosa claims that it was the police who forced him to accuse her. Msgr David, president of the Episcopal Conference: "A grave injustice committed against the entire Filipino people".



Manila (AsiaNews) - Leila de Lima, the 62-year-old senator behind bars since 2017 for what her supporters believe was a ploy by President Duterte, who was criticized by the senator for the "war on drugs" launched in 2016 soon after her election, could soon be released from prison. Today, - now in the throes of the administration, ahead of the May 9 presidential elections - De Lima appears to be getting justice.

The contrasts between the president, long even before his candidacy and election in the crosshairs of human rights groups for repressive initiatives towards civil society and the hasty methods used to get rid of critics, had turned five years ago into a complaint against the woman who as Secretary of Justice in 2014 had brought to light the privileges granted in prison to local "drug lords" and their connections.

There followed a trial against her and a conviction for corruption for accepting money from drug trafficking supported by the testimony of the trafficker Kerwin Espinosa. The latter, however, on April 28 retracted with a written document, pointing out how his confession had been extorted by the police and thus freeing De Lima from her alleged responsibilities and in fact neutralizing the conviction.

While waiting for official measures, the senator - who in detention in a judicial custody center has continued to carry out her political and legislative activities and has officially re-elected as a candidate for the elections on the opposite side of the tandem for the presidency and vice-presidency formed by Ferdinand "Bonbong" Marcos and Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president - has urged others to come out in the open to clearly delineate the relationships between drug trafficking, politics and police.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, a week before the vote, has forcefully recalled the serious consequences of a return of the Marcoses to the leadership of the country and a renewal of Duterte's liberticidal policies.

On April 29, the president of the Episcopal Conference, the Bishop of Caloocan Msgr. Pablo Virgilio David, had publicly highlighted "the heavy injustice" against Leila de Lima, an injustice "committed against the Filipino people", stressing "that she was not even allowed to participate online in the sessions of the Senate".

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