Leila de Lima
Leila Norma Eulalia Josefa Magistrado de Lima (born 27 August 1959) is a lawyer, human rights activist, law professor and politician. She is currently a senator, having been elected in the 2016 elections. She was the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights from 2008 to 2010, handling high-profile cases such as the Davao death squads, human rights cases against Jovito Palparan, and the Maguindanao massacre in 2009. She was also the secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from 2010 to 2015, during the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
A staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs, de Lima was arrested in 2017 after she was alleged to have maintained connections to the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison during her time as secretary of the DOJ. As of February 2017, she was acquitted in one of the three charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.
On 8 October 2021, de Lima filed her certificate of candidacy for the 2022 senatorial election in Camp Crame, where she has been detained since February 2017. She is running under the Liberal Party and is part of the senatorial slate of Vice President Leni Robredo, who is running for president in the 2022 elections.
Leila Norma Eulália Josefa Magistrado de Lima was born on 27 August 1959 in Iriga, Camarines Sur. His parents were Vicente de Lima, a former commissioner of the Commission on Elections, and Norma Magistrado. Julie de Lima, the wife of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, is a distant relative of de Lima.
She finished her elementary and high school education in La Consolacion Academy (now La Consolacion College) in 1972 and 1976, respectively. She was valedictorian in both of her graduating classes in the school. De Lima took up history at the De La Salle University and graduated in 1980. She then studied law at the San Beda College of Law, graduating salutatorian in 1985. She placed eighth in the 1985 bar exams.
Human rights commissioner
De Lima was appointed chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008 under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. During her stint, which lasted until the end of Arroyo’s administration in 2010, she dealt with sensitive cases such as those involving the Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group alleged to have conducted summary executions at the behest of Davao City’s then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte; the Maguindanao massacre; and the human rights abuses of Philippine Army general Jovito Palparan.
In 2010, de Lima was appointed secretary of the Department of Justice by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. One of the first high-profile cases the department dealt with under her leadership was the Manila hostage crisis, where eight Hong Kong nationals were killed by the perpetrator, Rolando Mendoza, on 23 August 2010.
De Lima successfully ran for senator in the 2016 elections under the Liberal Party, placing 12th in the race after garnering 14 million votes. As a senator, she became one of the vocal critics of the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte upon his assumption of office in June 2016. In a privilege speech in August 2016, she said the government “cannot wage the war against drugs with blood.” She cautioned against the government continuing its war on drugs because of the waves of killings perpetrated by cops as well as vigilante groups.
On 17 August 2016, Duterte alleged that de Lima had been having an illicit affair with her driver, Ronnie Dayan, and that he also worked as the senator’s collector of protection money from inmates operating the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during her time as DOJ secretary.
In September 2016, de Lima was ousted from her position as chairperson of the Senate committee on Justice and Human Rights, which was investigating the extrajudicial killings. She later admitted that she was in a relationship with Dayan years ago. Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre called convicted drug lords, former NBP officials and police officers to testify against de Lima in the congressional investigation into the drug trade in the prison. De Lima advised Dayan not to attend the hearing. He went into hiding but was later captured by authorities.
Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who had been arrested on drug charges in August 2016, claimed that de Lima was a benefactor of his son Kerwin Espinosa’s illegal drug businesses in Eastern Visayas. The mayor presented a picture of de Lima with his son taken in Baguio City. Kerwin Espinosa later claimed that de Lima received a total of P8 million from him and that this helped finance her campaign for the 2016 elections.
De Lima earned praise for her strong opposition to Duterte’s war on drugs. In December 2016, she was lauded by international human rights groups and journalists for her criticism of the extrajudicial killings and abuse by authorities. On 17 February 2017, drug-related charges were pressed against de Lima. On 23 February 2017, an arrest warrant was issued against her by a Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court for her alleged violation of the drug trafficking law. The charges against her included using her position as secretary of the Department of Justice to earn money from the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. She was alleged to have allowed imprisoned drug lords to continue with their operations in exchange for money. De Lima surrendered to authorities on 24 February 2017.
Calls for release
In March 2017, the European Parliament blasted the continuing killings in the Philippines’ war on drugs and called for the release of de Lima, noting the “serious concerns that the offenses Senator de Lima has been charged with are almost entirely fabricated.” Amnesty International, which called de Lima a prisoner of conscience in February 2017, demanded her unconditional release in June 2020.
De Lima has continued to communicate from prison through statements published on various platforms such as Twitter. In her messages, she has criticized the alleged rampant corruption in the Duterte administration as well as its human rights violations.
De Lima was married to lawyer Plaridel Bohol for more than 30 years. They have two adult children.
Honors and recognition
- MetroBank Foundation Professorial Chair for Public Service and Governance (2010)
- Excellent Public Servant Award (2010)
- Defender of People's Rights (2010)
- “Agent of Change” Award (2010)
- Most Outstanding Alumna Award 2010 by San Beda University
- Most Outstanding Alumna Award 2011 by San Beda University
- 2016 Global Thinker Award by Foreign Policy
- Top Most Influential People for 2017 by Time Magazine
- Women Human Rights Defenders for 2017 by Amnesty International
- On October 31, 2017, Liberal International awarded de Lima the Prize For Freedom, the federation's highest human rights honor. De Lima is the second Filipino to obtain the award after former President Corazon Aquino in 1987.
- 2017 Leading Global Thinker Award
- World's 50 Greatest Leaders for 2018 by Fortune Magazine
- 2018 Southeast Asia's Women to Watch by The Diplomat
- 2018 Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender Award by Amnesty International
- 2018 Women Human Rights Defenders Under Threat recognized by Amnesty International
- 2018 Human Rights Defenders recognized at the Human Rights Defender World Summit in Paris
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- https://www.rappler.com/nation/elections/leila-de-lima-files-certificate-candidacy-senator-2022 Rappler. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
- http://www.inquirer.net/wp-content/themes/Homepage_2012/jbc/images/DeLima.pdf Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
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- https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2010/09/17/first-report-of-the-iirc-on-the-rizal-park-hostage-taking-incident/ Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/duterte-crime-war-out-of/2941446.html Channel news Asia. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/08/02/16/de-lima-stop-the-killings-now ABS-CBN News. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/825177/de-lima-called-mother-of-all-drug-lords Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- http://www.rappler.com/nation/146689-senate-ousts-leila-de-lima-justice-committee Rappler. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://www.rappler.com/nation/146759-colangco-de-lima-payola-drugs Rappler. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/11/24/Dayan-affidavit-De-Lima.html CNN. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/587863/news/nation/espinosa-affidavit-kerwin-met-de-lima-in-baguio-city-in-march/ GMA Network. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://news.mb.com.ph/2016/11/24/i-gave-p8-m-to-de-lima-kerwin Manila Bulletin. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38362274 BBC. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/world/asia/arrest-duterte-leila-de-lima.html New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
- https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/03/16/1681957/european-parliament-condemns-ejks-calls-de-lima-release Philippine Star. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa35/2483/2020/en/ Amnesty International. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
- https://twitter.com/SenLeiladeLima Retrieved August 26, 2021.