Leila de Lima

The Honorable
Leila de Lima
Leila de Lima (cropped).jpg
Senator of the Philippines
Assumed office
June 30, 2016
Chair of the Philippine Senate
Electoral Reforms and
People's Participation Committee
Assumed office
July 25, 2016
Preceded by Aquilino Pimentel III
Chair of the Philippine Senate
Justice and Human Rights Committee
In office
July 25, 2016 – September 19, 2016
Preceded by Aquilino Pimentel III
Succeeded by Richard J. Gordon
Secretary of Justice
In office
June 30, 2010 – October 12, 2015
President Benigno Aquino III
Preceded by Alberto Agra (acting)
Succeeded by Alfredo Caguioa (acting)
Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights
In office
May 2008 – June 30, 2010
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Preceded by Purificacion Quisumbing
Succeeded by Etta Rosales
Personal details
Born Leila Norma Eulalia Josefa Magistrado de Lima
(1959-08-27) August 27, 1959 (age 58)
Iriga, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Political party Liberal Party (2015–present)
Other political
Aksyon Demokratiko (before 2010)
Independent (2010–2015)
Alma mater De La Salle University
San Beda College
Profession Lawyer

Leila Norma Eulalia Josefa Magistrado de Lima (born August 27, 1959) is a Filipino lawyer, human rights activist and politician. She was appointed by president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights in May 2008 and she served in the commission until June 30, 2010, when she was appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III as the Philippines' Secretary of the Department of Justice.

She resigned as justice secretary on October 12, 2015, to focus on her candidacy for a seat in the Senate of the Philippines in what was then an oncoming 2016 Philippine general election. She won one of the twelve contested seats and currently serves as a Philippine senator in the Philippines' 17th Congress.

She is a known critic of the Philippine Drug War of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. In February 2017, days after garnering international awards for her campaign against extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, she was arrested due to allegedly due to 'aiding' drug lords according to the police. Her arrest was a bailable offense; nonetheless, her release was blocked by the Department of Justice. In October 2017, the prestigious Prize for Freedom was awarded to her for her brave stand against a dictatorial regime. She was designated as a 'prisoner of conscience' by numerous international human rights organizations.[1][2]

Early life[]

She is the eldest daughter of the former Philippine COMELEC Commissioner Vicente de Lima and Norma Magistrado.[3][4] She was born and raised in Iriga of the province of Camarines Sur, Philippines.[4] De Lima's aunt, Julie de Lima, married Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, making him Leila de Lima's uncle by marriage. [5]

De Lima completed her basic education, graduating as class valedictorian.[4] She graduated in 1980 from the De La Salle University with an AB History degree.[4] She finished her Bachelor of Laws (Salutatorian) degree at the San Beda College of Law in 1985.[4]

Legal career[]

De Lima began her legal career as legal staff to Supreme Court associate justice Isagani Cruz from 1986 to 1989.[4] She joined the Jardeleza Sobreviñas Diaz Hayudini and Bodegon Law Offices in 1989 where she served as a junior associate.[4] She worked in the same position at the Jardeleza Law Offices from 1991 to 1993.[4]

De Lima joined the Philippine government in 1993 as a clerk and secretary of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.[4] She resigned in 1995 to return to private practice.[4] She then joined Roco, Buñag, Kapunan and Migallos law firm as its junior partner.[4]

In 1998 she set up her own firm, The De Lima Law Firm, and served as counsel in various election cases, most notable of which was the electoral protest of Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III in the 2007 Senate election over the 12th seat occupied by Miguel Zubiri.[4] De Lima also served as a legal counsel to the campaign of Alan Peter Cayetano during his campaign in the Philippine Senate election, 2007.[4] She was also a professor of law at the San Beda College of Law during her private practice.[4]

Political career[]

Human rights commission[]

Under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Leila de Lima was appointed Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.[4] As human rights commissioner, de Lima investigated the Davao death squads,[6] Jovito Palparan,[5] and the Maguindanao massacre. These investigations would later lead to her feud with Rodrigo Duterte, who would later become president and would imprison her through the usage of the Department of Justice.[7]

Justice secretary[]

When Benigno Aquino III took over, de Lima was tapped as Secretary of the Department of Justice under the President-elect's new Cabinet.[4] On July 2, 2010, de Lima took over the helm of the Philippine Department of Justice.[4] On August 27, 2015, Justice Secretary de Lima assisted Isaias Samson, an expelled Minister of Iglesia ni Cristo, in filing a case against the sect.[8] Allegations that de Lima used her position as Justice secretary with regards to the New Bilibid Prison resulted in criminal complaints against her in 2017. However, it would later be revealed that she was the first justice secretary to investigate the drug lords of New Bilibid Prison, running counter to the complaints filed against her. Despite this, her arrest was made concrete with the backing of Rodrigo Duterte.[9][10]


De Lima condemned the Philippine Drug War and urged the Philippine Congress to investigate.[11] She called for an end of vigilante killings of drug suspects. On her privilege speech at Senate on August 2, she noted that "we cannot wage the war against drugs with blood..."[12] De Lima laments the indifference of the new government to extrajudicial killings and warns that more innocent people will suffer if the killings fail to stop.[13]

On August 17, 2016, the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte alleged that de Lima had been having an affair with her driver, Ronnie Dayan, who Duterte also alleged functioned as De Lima’s collector for drug protection money when she was the Justice secretary.[14][15] Duterte also alleged that De Lima’s driver had been using drugs.[16] Duterte later claimed that he had in his possession wiretaps and ATM records which confirmed his allegations. He explained that he had received them from an unnamed foreign country.[17] In September 2016, de Lima was removed from her position chairing a Senate Justice and Human Rights committee investigating extrajudicial killings.[18] De Lima, later, admitted that she had a relationship with Dayan many years ago. Justice secretary Vitaliano would later use convicted drug lords, thieves, and murderers as prime witnesses against de Lima. Despite the nature of the witnesses presented, the Philippine Senate under senator Gordon welcomed them in the investigation. The investigation would later lead to de Lima being arrested due to testimonies from the same drug lords, thieves, and murderers she jailed during her stint as justice secretary.[19]


Senator Leila De Lima listens to a PNP-CIDG officer who served the warrant for her arrest at the Senate grounds in Pasay. February 24, 2017.

In December 2016, de Lima received praise from international human rights advocates and journalists for her criticism of Duterte's Drug War despite political repression against her.[20][21] On February 17, 2017, a local court pressed drug-related charges against de Lima.[22] On February 23, a Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court issued an arrest warrant against de Lima for allegedly violating the drug trafficking law.[23][24] De Lima faces drug related cases for allegedly using her position as Secretary of Justice to acquire money from drug pushers to make their drug business operational even though they are imprisoned. De Lima turned herself in the following morning, officially becoming the first political prisoner under the regime of Rodrigo Duterte. She has also been referred to as a 'prisoner of conscience' by numerous international human rights organizations.[25][26]

On March 16, 2017, the European Parliament condemned the wave of killings in the Philippines and called for De Lima's release.[27] It expressed serious concerns that the offences Senator De Lima has been charged with are almost entirely fabricated.[28] Amnesty International regards de Lima as a prisoner of conscience.[29] Despite her imprisonment, de Lima continues to oppose the policies of Duterte and remains a member of the Philippine Senate and the Liberal Party.[30][31][32] She was part of the debate regarding martial law.[33] In late July 2017, de Lima was visited by members of the European Parliament and the Liberal International.[34][35] She was unable to vote against the martial law extension because of her detention.[34] She petitioned her release but the Supreme Court rejected her request, and later slapped her with the affirmation of the release of numerous prisoners guilty of graft or corruption during the previous administrations. In September, de Lima's ally in the Senate, Risa Hontiveros, caught justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II drafting fabricated charges against her through text messages durng a hearing on the deaths of minors caused by the Philippine Drug War. The same tactic was used by the same secretary against de Lima, which led to her arrest.[36]

By October 2017, de Lima released numerous statements while in prison condemning the death toll of the Philippine Drug War which has increased to 14,000 Filipino deaths, where a huge number were children, infants, and teenagers. In November 2017, de Lima was awarded the Prize for Freedom by Liberal International, becoming the second Filipino to receive the prestigious award after Corazon Aquino.[37] On December 5, 2017, she was again bestowed with the Leading Global Thinker award by Foreign Policy for the second consecutive year. In the same month, de Lima criticized Duterte for his pivot to China, citing what happened in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Cambodia, where those countries were put by China in a debt trap after accepting Chinese loans, leading to China's economic control on those countries.[38]

Honors and recognition[]


  1. ^ https://www.rappler.com/nation/161278-leila-de-lima-surrender-drug-charges
  2. ^ http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/10/10/Senator-Leila-De-Lima-arrest-Supreme-Court.html
  3. ^ "De Lima, Leila Norma Eulalia Josefa, Magistrado" (PDF). Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved September 4, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "The Fighter: How Leila de Lima Ended Up Leading the Opposition to Rodrigo Duterte's Drug War". Time. December 14, 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "De Lima: So what if I'm Joma's kin?". ABS-CBN News. July 30, 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  6. ^ "De Lima: 2009 DDS probe failed because Davao folk sided with 'ruthless King'". ABS-CBN. March 9, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Clan allied to Philippine president suspected of being behind massacre". The Guardian. November 25, 2009. 
  8. ^ Gamil, Jaymee; Yee, Jovic; Quismundo, Tarra (29 August 2015). "Iglesia Ni Cristo protesters occupy Edsa". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Charges filed against De Lima". Philippine Star. 
  10. ^ "De Lima bigget perp of bilibid drug trade". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  11. ^ "Duterte crime war 'out of control': Philippine critics". Retrieved July 9, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Stop the killings–Leila". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  13. ^ "De Lima: Stop the killings now". ABS-CBN News. 2 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "De Lima called 'mother of all drug lords'". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 30 November 2016. 
  15. ^ "De Lima, 7 others charged with drug trafficking". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 30 November 2016. 
  16. ^ "Duterte tells De Lima: I have witnesses against you". Inquirer Mindanao. Philippine Daily Inquirer. August 18, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  17. ^ "'Love affair led to corruption'" (August 21, 2016). The Manila Times. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Senate ousts De Lima as justice committee chairperson". Rappler. September 19, 2016. 
  19. ^ "De Lima admits past relationship with Ronnie Dayan". GMA News. November 14, 2016. 
  20. ^ "The Challengers: Leila de Lima". Foreign Policy. December 12, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Leila de Lima: The woman who dares to defy Philippine president". BBC News. December 28, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Philippines: Duterte critic Leila de Lima faces drugs charges". BBC News. February 17, 2017. 
  23. ^ Reformina, Ina (February 23, 2017). "De Lima ordered arrested by RTC". ABS-CBNnews.com. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Leila de Lima, Critic of Duterte, Is Ordered Held by Court". The New York Times. February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Sen. Leila De Lima arrested over drug charges". CNN Philippines. February 24, 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  26. ^ Power, Samantha (March 2017). "Leila de Lima". TIME. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  27. ^ "European Parliament condemns EJKs and calls for de Lima release". The Philippine Star. March 16, 2017. 
  28. ^ "JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION by the European Parliament". European Parliament. March 16, 2017. 
  29. ^ "Philippines senator who branded President Duterte 'serial killer' arrested". The Guardian. February 24, 2017. 
  30. ^ "A Philippine senator defies her president — from behind bars". The Los Angeles Times. March 29, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Living in Fear, Duterte's Chief Critic Speaks Out From Philippine Jail". The New York Times. March 24, 2017. 
  32. ^ "Defying Duterte". Vice News. March 3, 2017. 
  33. ^ "Opposition senators seek joint session on martial law". Rappler. May 29, 2017. 
  34. ^ a b "European Parliament: Let de Lima do her duties". The Philippine Daily Inquirer. July 21, 2017. 
  35. ^ "Police bar Liberal International president from visiting de Lima". GMA Network. July 21, 2017. 
  36. ^ https://www.rappler.com/nation/181806-hontiveros-aguirre-text-expe-cases
  37. ^ https://www.rappler.com/nation/187029-leila-de-lima-award-liberal-international-human-rights
  38. ^ http://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2017/12/19/1769920/de-lima-warns-against-chinese-entry-local-telco-industry
  39. ^ Roxas, Pathricia (November 1, 2017). "'Political prisoner' De Lima gets 'Prize for Freedom' award from int'l liberal groups". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved November 1, 2017. 
Senate of the Philippines
Preceded by
Aquilino Pimentel III
Chair of the Philippine Senate Electoral Reforms and
People's Participation Committee

Preceded by
Aquilino Pimentel III
Chair of the Philippine Senate
Justice and Human Rights Committee

Succeeded by
Richard J. Gordon
Political offices
Preceded by
Alberto Agra
Secretary of Justice
Succeeded by
Alfredo Caguioa
Preceded by
Purificacion Quisumbing
Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights
Succeeded by
Etta Rosales