OPPOSITION Senator Leila M. De Lima on Wednesday confirmed that she would seek reelection in next year’s polls, saying that what she called the political persecution she experienced under President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration only strengthened her resolve to fight for her advocacies.
In a letter addressed to Mr. Duterte ahead of his sixth and final State of the Nation Address on July 26, Ms. De Lima said her detention only pushed her to work harder to advance her fight for human rights.
The detained senator said the nation will hold the President accountable for his violent drug war that has killed thousands and his failure to deter Chinese incursions in Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.
Ms. De Lima has the “right” to seek reelection pending final conviction on charges against her, Palace spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said when asked to comment.
“Sana hindi magkaroon ng final conviction bago ang eleksiyon (Hopefully there won’t be a final conviction before the election),” he told a televised news briefing.
The senator, who has been jailed at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center since 2017, is on trial for allegedly allowing the illegal drug trade in the country’s jails when she was still Justice secretary.
Witnesses against her were drug convicts serving time at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
Ms. De Lima was arrested amid an investigation by a Senate panel into the alleged atrocities committed in Mr. Duterte’s drug war.
In her letter, Ms. De Lima criticized the President for failing to arrest suspected drug lord Peter G. Lim.
Mr. Lim, a friend of Mr. Duterte, was identified as a member of the drug triad in the Philippines.
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor earlier asked the Hague-based tribunal’s pre-trial chamber to probe alleged crimes against humanity committed in Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs. Former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said there is a link between the recent drug war-related killings and those in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still mayor.
Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the President had realized “early in his term” that the country’s drug problem cannot be solved within three to six months.
Despite this, the President’s campaign promise was still “successful,” he said.
As of May 31, Mr. Roque said about 807 drug dens and clandestine laboratories had been dismantled by authorities. The government was also able to seize about P49.31 billion worth of illegal drugs.
More than 293,000 individuals involved in the drug trade had been arrested, Mr. Roque said. Of these, 12,356 were high-value targets and 970 were government workers, he added.
The Palace official said more than 3, 000 children were rescued in anti-illegal drug raids.
At least 122 children were killed in the government’s deadly drug war between July 2016 and Dec. 2019, according to the World Organization Against Torture. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza