MANILA – Philippine senator Leila de Lima, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte that has been in pretrial detention on accusations related to drug-trafficking, has been granted a two-day furlough on Thursday to visit her ailing mother.
The senator, who has been jailed since February 2017, has led the fight against Duterte in the Senate, where she opened an investigation into allegations of human rights violations during the anti-drugs campaign launched by the president after taking office in June 2016.
De Lima arrived at her family’s ancestral home in Iriga city in the province of Camarines Sur on Thursday morning and must return to her cell at Camp Crame prison in Manila before Friday, her legal team reported.
Her 86-year-old mother reportedly suffers from dementia and was recently hospitalized.
According to images broadcast by local TV channels, De Lima left her cell at around 2:30 am Thursday and took a plane to the town of Legazpi, from where she traveled to Iriga in a van, escorted by a police convoy.
This is the third time since being imprisoned for alleged links to drug-trafficking –charges that the senator denies and says have been fabricated owing to her criticism of the president – that De Lima has left prison, the previous two occasions to attend court hearings.
The senator is also part of a criminal investigation launched last month by the Department of Justice into sedition charges against the country’s vice president and 35 other opponents and critics of the president’s administration, including senators and bishops, for allegedly trying to destabilize the government.
De Lima has been an eminent lawyer and activist who served as minister of justice between 2010-2015.
Her case has drawn international attention, and several groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Forum Asia, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and United States lawmakers have repeatedly demanded her immediate release, calling her imprisonment yet another case of political persecution by Duterte’s government.