Leila de Lima, the former senator of the Philippines, was released from detention last month and is now adjusting to life in a whole new world. In 2016, then-President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to “destroy” de Lima, who was a vocal critic of his deadly drug war. Duterte’s supporters began targeting de Lima, ridiculing her for an alleged romantic affair with her driver and accusing her of involvement in drug trafficking. In February 2017, she was arrested on drug charges she denies, and international observers have said are politically motivated.
De Lima was finally granted bail last month after all but one of the witnesses who testified against her recanted their statements, with some saying they gave forced testimonies. Duterte has now left politics, although his daughter, Sara, is vice president. Both could be subject to an investigation into the drug war by the International Criminal Court, even though Duterte pulled Manila out of the court in 2019.
De Lima, 64, says she plans to return to her private law practice and has no plans to run for office after losing a Senate reelection bid from prison last year. But she refuses to remain silent, promising not to give her political enemies the “satisfaction” after her prolonged detention.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, de Lima discussed her experiences and the current political climate in the Philippines. She expressed her gradual adjustment to freedom and the pain of being away from her family and friends during her time in detention. She also discussed the impact of Duterte’s attacks on her public persona and political life, as well as the support she received from the international community.
De Lima highlighted the challenges faced by women in the Philippines, particularly in a male-dominated society where misogynistic and gendered language is used to attack women who oppose those in power. She also expressed her concerns about the desensitization of the Filipino people and the need to dismantle the bad legacies of the Duterte regime, especially in the area of human rights.
Regarding the current administration under President Marcos, de Lima acknowledged some positive developments, such as a more humane approach to the war on drugs and less repression and harassment of critics and dissenters. However, she emphasized the need for continued work to respect the independence of the judiciary and address challenges faced by activists and human rights defenders.
De Lima also called for the dismantling of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which has been accused of encouraging human rights violations. She emphasized the importance of proactive measures by the Marcos administration to address these challenges and ensure judicial independence.
In conclusion, de Lima expressed her hope for a positive trend in the Philippines and the need to work towards a more just and democratic society. She also emphasized the importance of the international community’s continued interest in the country and its impact on her case.
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