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Last Feb 23, 2022, the fifth-year anniversary of Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest and incarceration, several business groups appealed to the government to reconsider the remaining charges against Senator Leila de Lima – a legislator, a former Justice Secretary and Commissioner on Human rights, a lawyer, wife and mother. Said charges have not progressed after five long years, and one charge was already dismissed by the courts. This appeal followed a European Parliament statement a week earlier, calling for the Senator’s “immediate and unconditional release”.

Recently, the newspapers reported that Mr. Kerwin Espinosa, a self-confessed drug lord and the much-publicized Senate hearing witness against Senator de Lima, retracted his allegations in a counter-affidavit with the Department of Justice, claiming he was “coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened by the police.” Subsequently, another news report cited an affidavit notarized on April 30, 2022, where Rafael Ragos, a second witness and former officer-in-charge for the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), alleged that he too had been “coerced”  into testifying against the Senator.

As has been previously said, five years is a painfully long time to wait, for the government, with all the powers of the state behind it, to prosecute its case against any citizen.  In light of the recanted statements of said witnesses and in deference to the constitutional right of an accused to speedy trial, we urgently appeal that appropriate action be immediately taken to resolve the case at the earliest possible time. Our Constitution holds sacred every citizen’s fundamental rights to liberty and due process, and these rights form the very foundation of the just and humane society we seek, as we rebuild our post-pandemic economy and strengthen the confidence of the international community.  (4 May 2022)

Signing organizations :

  1. Filipina CEO Circle (FCC)

  2. Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) 

  3. Integrity Initiative Inc. (II. INC.)

  4. Judicial Reform Initiative (JRI)

  5. Makati Business Club (MBC)

  6. Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) 

  7. Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN)

  8. The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS)

  9. Women’s Business Council Philippines, Inc. (WomenBizPH)