Philippines: Vindication for Leila de Lima as last bogus charge dismissed

Responding to news that a Philippine court has dismissed the final fabricated charge against former Filipino senator and human rights defender Leila de Lima, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, Montse Ferrer, said:

“This is full freedom and vindication, finally, for human rights defender Leila de Lima, after her nearly seven years of arbitrary detention, as well as relentless political persecution.

“De Lima’s acquittal in this last outstanding case is long overdue, and every day she spent in jail until her temporary release in November 2023 was a gross injustice. She was viciously targeted by the administration of former President Duterte solely for her efforts to expose human rights violations in the so-called ‘war on drugs’. Today’s dismissal of the last drug-related allegation against her is a clear rejection of concerted government efforts to silence her and undermine her human rights work.  

“As de Lima fully regains her freedom, we urge the administration of President Marcos to work towards ensuring an enabling environment for her and for many other human rights defenders in the Philippines who continue to be targeted because of their critical work.

“We also challenge the Marcos administration to impartially and effectively investigate those responsible for the unfounded allegations against de Lima that led to her arbitrary detention and the other human rights violations she has endured – and continues to endure – and bring them to justice in fair trials.

“The government must work towards what de Lima, Amnesty International and many other human rights defenders have been tirelessly calling for: an end to the continuing unlawful killings and other violations in the ‘war on drugs’, accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the thousands of victims and their families.”


On 24 June, Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 cleared former Senator and human rights defender Leila de Lima of the third and last charge of conspiracy to commit drug trading. In his decision, Judge Gener Gito granted de Lima’s legal motion that technically called for the dismissal of the case.

On 13 November 2023, the same court provided de Lima temporary liberty as it granted her bail application in the same case, with the bail amounting to PHP 300,000 (USD 5,349). De Lima faced three fabricated drug-related charges in total, two of which were dismissed by two different courts in 2021 and 2023.

Before her release on bail in 2023, de Lima had been detained at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police since her arrest on 24 February 2017 on drug-related charges.

The authorities arrested de Lima after she sought to investigate violations committed in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” under the former Duterte administration from 2016 to 2022, including the extrajudicial execution of thousands suspected of using or selling drugs, which Amnesty International has said may amount to crimes against humanity. As in the case of de Lima, there has been almost no justice for the victims of these abuses and their families, nor accountability for the perpetrators.

Court proceedings against de Lima in the last six years have been marked by undue delays, including the repeated failure of prosecution witnesses to appear in court with some saying they were coerced and threatened by former government officials to fabricate allegations against her, and changes in judges handling the cases against her. In 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the detention of de Lima was arbitrary because of the lack of legal basis and the non-observance of international norms relating to the right to a fair trial. Amnesty International had designated her as a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for her legitimate human rights work.

The political persecution of de Lima reflects the broader context of increasing impunity for human rights violations in the country, including killings, threats and harassment of political activists, human rights defenders, members of the media and other targeted groups.