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HomeUncategorizedJailed senatorial candidate wages a poll battle from behind bar

Jailed senatorial candidate wages a poll battle from behind bar

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Senator Leila de Lima who is one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunchest critics has been waging an uphill campaign for reelection from a high-security jail

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Detained senatorial candidate Leila de Lima appeared on stage, her hand raised high to greet the crowd, campaigning for re-election in the upcoming elections. But it wasn’t the opposition icon herself, but a life-size cutout image displayed by her campaign allies.

The 62-year-old top critic of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte has been imprisoned in a high-security jail in the capital’s main police camp for more than five years. She is the most well-known detainee during Duterte’s turbulent six-year rule.

Isolated from the outside world by high prison walls, iron bars, rusted barbed wire, and armed guards, de Lima has accused President Duterte and his deputies of fabricating the non-bailable drug-related charges that landed her in jail in February 2017 and effectively prevented her from investigating the widespread killings of mostly poor suspects during his anti-drug crackdown.

President Duterte has insisted on her guilt, claiming that witnesses testified that she was paid off by imprisoned drug lords.

In a statement to the Associated Press, De Lima said she cried every day, especially at night in the first few weeks, not really out of self-pity but for her family and out of disbelief. She added that she was isolated and there was no one else but stray cats.

During her incarceration, she has only been granted five times by the court to leave detention briefly and under heavy guard for medical checkups, to attend a party for her son after he passed the bar exam, and to console her ailing 89-year-old mother.

However, she claims that the prison wall and desolation have failed to silence her.

De Lima’s years-long detention has prompted calls for her release from the European Union Parliament, some US legislators, and the United Nations. Human rights experts and international watchdogs have called for de Lima’s release immediately.

President Duterte has retaliated with angry outbursts and threats, claiming that Westerners are bullying and interfering in his country’s internal affairs.

When asked if she believes she will be able to regain her liberty once President Duterte steps down, de Lima said that if the next administration is free of Duterte’s lingering influence, “I have a pretty good chance of achieving justice.”

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