Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the release of former Senator Leila de Lima on bail

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the release of former Senator Leila de Lima on bail

The release of the former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and former Senator Leila de Lima through bail is a notable development after almost seven years in detention. The CHR welcomes this development as it highlights the importance of the right to a fair and speedy trial.

To recall, three drug charges were filed against her in 2017, rooted from the accusations of her alleged involvement in drugs and for letting the drug trade take place inside New Bilibid Prison. She had been acquitted from the first drug charge in 2021, and the second in May 2023. CHR has since hoped for the swift release of the decision on her bail application. [1] CHR recognises the just and timely decision of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 in this regard.

CHR stresses the UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners as a human rights standard, which emphasises, among others, that “[t]here shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” and “[e]xcept for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and other human rights covenants. These rights include being entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, as well as the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

CHR, as the country’s independent national human rights institution, underscores the crucial role of due process and the rule of law in protecting human rights, as well as in providing appropriate remedies and reparation in instances of human rights abuse and violations. Similarly, we underscore the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring an impartial and transparent process for every aggrieved and accused of a crime.

Just as the Commission always stands for the rights and dignity of all, we take this moment to similarly stress that every Filipino is entitled to a fair trial and speedy disposition of cases, as well as to the equal protection of laws, as guaranteed in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. As such, we urge the Philippine government for the timely review of cases of other persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who have been awaiting resolution of their cases, regardless of their status, gender, and political affiliation among others. Through such effort, not only does the government upholds the human rights guarantees of the Constitution, it also contributes to the decongestion of jails and other detention facilities in the country.

CHR shall continue to monitor the case of former Senator de Lima. At the same time, we also reiterate our commitment in upholding the rights of all PDLs through partnerships with relevant government agencies, such as in decongestion and addressing the human rights conditions in places of deprivation of liberty, and in helping the State comply with its human rights obligations, such as through the establishment of the country’s National Preventive Mechanism. ###

[1] Statement of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcoming the acquittal of former CHR Chairperson and Senator Leila de Lima | 13 May 2023