Former senator Leila de Lima was granted bail after six years in police detention amid drug-related cases.
The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch Branch 206 on Monday, Nov. 13 granted P300,000 bail each to De Lima and her co-accused, namely ex-Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayu, former aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and alleged bagman Jose Adrian Dera.
Speaking to the media after the bail was granted, De Lima thanked God and her loved ones for not giving up on her.
"Magpasalamat, unang-una sa ating Mahal na Panginoon na hindi Niya po ako pinabayaan," she said. "Nagpapasalamat po ako sa aking pamilya, sa aking mga kaibigan sa kanilang pagmahahal. Hindi nila ako pinabayaan."
She also thanked the Marcos administration "for respecting the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law."
De Lima in police detention
De Lima served five years of her six-year term as senator in police detention, starting on Feb. 24, 2017, during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.
She was one of Duterte’s fiercest critics amid his bloody war on drugs or Oplan Tokhang. As then-commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights in 2009, she launched an investigation into the "death squad" killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as Davao City mayor and in the early days of his presidency.
After winning a Senate seat in the 2016 elections that also swept populist Duterte to power, De Lima became one of the few opposition voices.
Duterte then accused her of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals when she was justice secretary, forcing her from the Senate and into a jail cell.
De Lima lost her bid for re-election in May 2022 after campaigning from behind bars.
Duterte, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a second term as president, stepped down the following month.
Health problems in prison
While in jail, de Lima 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.
Throughout the legal proceedings, De Lima has insisted the charges against her had been trumped up in retaliation for going after Duterte and his drug war that killed thousands of people.
She repeatedly denied the accusations, saying they’re politically motivated and are Duterte’s means of getting back at her.
Several key witnesses also gave their testimonies regarding De Lima’s alleged crimes but have already retracted their statements.
De Lima 'free at last'
On Monday night, De Lima walked free from the detention center where she was held in a compound for high-profile detainees, rather than one of the country's overcrowded prisons.
"Free at last! At last! After six years, eight months, 21 days. This is my 2,454th day. Hindi ko talaga ma describe ang feeling na nangyari na ang pinakahihintay ko," she told the media after being granted bail.
Reading her official statement to the press, De Lima said that while the wait "took too long," she "never lost faith" that her "inevitable freedom will come."
"Wala sigurong sapat na mga salita ang lubos na makakapaglarawan sa damdamin ng isang inosenteng inapi na, sa kabila ng pighati at paghihirap na dulot ng pagbaluktot sa mismong batas at prosesong ipinaglalaban, ay patuloy na nananalig, nananampalataya, at umaasa na darating din ang panahon na mananaig ang katotohanan at tunay na katarungan," she continued.
De Lima described each moment she spent in police detention as a "test" and a "fight to rise above the sorrow, the fears, the uncertainties of the future, and even—to be honest—the temptation to be overcome by hate and vindictive thoughts."
"Lahat po 'yun nilabanan ko. Hindi ko isusuko ang aking pagkatao at pagiging tao. They may have taken years of my life, but they will never take my humanity. Ang mundo ay puno ng mga taong buktot ang kaluluwa at makasarili sa harap ng pagdurusa ng taumbayan. I will never be one of them," she stressed.
While her time in jail was a "struggle," De Lima said she didn't let herself entertain even a single ounce of regret. "Yes, I wished things turned out differently, but these are things that were beyond my control. But for the things that were–what I did, how I reacted and my reasons for fighting for those who were victimized and cannot speak for themselves–I have no regret."
"As I appear before you today—6 years, 8 months, 21 days after I peaceably surrendered myself to the authorities—it is one of my greatest achievements in my career and in my life to say that, not only did I survive all these years of persecution and unjust detention, I came out stronger than ever, with an even stronger commitment to truth, justice, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law," she said, noting that such are not "just words" to her but her "lifeline."
"These have been my life before, during, and after my unjust detention started," she said.
"Kayo po ang aking ipinaglaban, kaya maraming salamat dahil ako rin ay inyong ipinaglaban. Maraming, maraming salamat po sa mga panalangin ninyo, at sa walang kapagurang pananalig ninyo sa katotohanan," de Lima concluded. (with reports from AFP)