Duterte Critic ‘Completely Free’ as Philippine Court Drops Last Drug Case

(Bloomberg) -- A Philippine court has cleared former Senator Leila de Lima of her remaining drug case, ending the seven-year legal battle of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunch critic.

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“I am now completely free and vindicated. It’s very liberating,” de Lima told reporters on Monday outside the courtroom as she was cheered on by supporters.

A Manila regional trial court granted de Lima’s objection to evidence for the failure of the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, according to a copy of the decision. That involved a case where she had been accused of tolerating illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary when she was justice secretary.

De Lima was released on bail in November after six years in detention. That followed her acquittal in May last year for a separate charge alleging that she conspired to trade illegal drugs during her stint in the justice department.

The cases against the former senator were filed during the presidency of Duterte, whose campaign against illegal drugs killed thousands and now the subject of an International Criminal Court probe.

When de Lima led the human rights commission, she investigated Duterte’s war on drugs that he started when he was a city mayor.

“I respected the rule of law despite the pain and the injustice of it all,” de Lima said. “I confronted the charges head on, and I went through and endured the whole process.”

The US State Department welcomed the former lawmaker’s acquittal on the final criminal charge against her. “We continue to urge the Philippines to resolve politically motivated cases, including those against journalists and civil society, in a manner consistent with its international human rights obligations and commitments,” it said in a statement.

--With assistance from Manolo Serapio Jr..

(Updates with comment from State Department in last paragraph.)

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