Former Senator Leila De Lima was granted bail after more than six years in jail.

In a 69-page resolution, Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 26 Judge Gener Gito granted the motion for reconsideration filed by de Lima and her co-accused, former Bureau of Corrections Chief Franklin Bucayu, police asset Jose Adrian Dera, and de Lima’s former driver and bodyguard Ronnie Dayan and former security aide Jonnel Sanchez.

They were allowed to post bail worth P300,000, reversing a June 7 ruling that denied them bail.

De Lima, a staunch critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested in February 2017 over illegal drug charges only months after she had launched a Senate inquiry into Duterte’s anti-drugs crackdown.

“Though it took too long, I never lost faith that my inevitable freedom will come,” de Lima said in a statement.

“Alam ninyong lahat kung gaano tayo katagal naghintay at nagtiis, na may pananalig na ang katotohanan at totong hustisya ang magtatagumpay,” she added.

De Lima was first acquitted in February 2021 after one of the three cases filed against her was junked by the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205.

The Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 likewise cleared de Lima on illegal drug trade charges last May 12.

Crackdown on women activists, journalists

Meanwhile, activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were freed last Sept. 21 after exposing their abduction in Orion, Bataan by the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Castro, 21, and Tamano, 22, were environmental defenders working with coastal communities affected by reclamation projects, especially in Manila Bay.

Prior to their abduction on September 22, both had reportedly experienced intimidation and harassment. 

According to watchdog Global Witness, the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for land and environmental defenders, with at least 281 murdered between 2012 and 2022.

However, it had not been a similar fate to two environmental defenders Miguela Peniero and Rowena Dasig who were arrested by the members of the 85th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Atimonan, Quezon on July 12 while conducting community research.

According to human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog, Peniero and Dasig were conducting research on the potential impacts of the proposed combined gas turbine power project and liquefied natural gas terminal plant being built in Barangay Caridad Ibaba in Atimonan.

The 85th IB claimed that Peniero and Dasig were members of the New People’s Army.

“Si Miguela Peniero ay may sakit na kanser na kanyang nilalabanan at dating bilanggong politikal na sa kabila ng kanyang karamdaman ay matatag ang kanyang paninindigan na tumulong sa mga magsasaka, mangingisda na hirap isadokumento ang kanilang suliranin kinakaharap sa pagtatayo ng planta sa bayan ng Atimonan, Quezon,” Tanggong Magsasaka-Timog Katagalugan said in a statement.

“Si Rowena Dasig naman ay Secretary-General ng Anakbayan Southern Tagalog na ang adbokasiya ay ang pagtulong sa mga magsasaka para ipagtanggol ang kanilang lupang sinasaka, mapataas ang presyo ng kopra/lukad at mabawi ang bilyong pondo ng Coco Levy Fund na matagal [nang] ipinagkait sa mga magsasaka sa niyugan,” the group added.

The Environmental Defenders Congress denounced their arrest and demanded their urgent release.

“Their unwavering commitment to defending the rights of marginalized communities and safeguarding the environment has led to their unjust incarceration, in much the same way that dozens of other environmental defenders and rights activists are targeted and illegally detained for their work,” the group said in a separate statement.

On the other hand, Eastern Vista journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio has been in detention for more than three years based on alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives given the issued warrants by Quezon City Judge Cecilyn-Burgos Villavert.

A similar application of warrant and charges were also accused to women journalists like Lady Ann Salem of Manila Today and Anne Krueger of Paghimutad Negros. But unlike Cumpio, both Salem and Krueger were freed.

Salem was part of Human Rights Day 7 while Krueger was part of the Negros 57.

The Mandaluyong court ruled the dismissal of the charges against Salem after her three-month imprisonment in December 2020. While Krueger was out on bail since November 2019.

While both were released from prison, both Salem and Krueger still face legal battles alongside the consistent physical and digital security threats to this day.

Karapatan documented at least 778 political prisoners in the country, 157 of whom are women political prisoners, as of June 2023

Forty-nine of them were arrested and detained under the Marcos Jr. regime. 77 of them are elderly, and 95 of them are sickly.


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