Calls to #FreeLeila mount after Espinosa retracts statements

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — After self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa retracted his drug allegations against Senator Leila De Lima, supporters of the lawmaker renewed their calls for her immediate release from detention.

In a statement Thursday, vice presidential candidate Sen. Kiko Pangilinan said this development shows that the allegations made against De Lima were only made up.

"Napakalaking sampal sa katarungan ang mahigit limang taong pagkakapiit ni Senator Leila. Palayain na si Senator Leila, agad-agad!" he emphasized.

[Translation: The more than five years of detention of Senator Leila is a big slap on justice. Release Senator Leila, immediatelty!]

De Lima has been detained for the past five years on what her camp calls trumped-up drug charges against her. She has been acquitted in one of three cases.

Vice presidential bet Walden Bello also expressed his support for the senator.

"One of the key elements of Ka Leody (De Guzman) and my campaign has been the unconditional release of this long-suffering victim of a frame-up based on nothing else but the president's vindictiveness," he said in another statement.

Meanwhile, Butch Olano, section director of Amnesty International Philippines, said this is a "veritable proof" that De Lima "is a victim of political persecution, targeted and singled out by the Duterte administration for her legitimate work as a human rights defender and duly-elected legislator."

"Espinosa's counter-affidavit, which says he was pressured and threatened to invent stories against the Senator is deeply disturbing," he added.

Olano noted De Lima's detention clearly stemmed from her being a vocal critic of the Duterte administration's war on drugs. The years of detention have caused her and her family unimaginable suffering and trauma, he stressed.

"Following this retraction, the government must immediately and unconditionally release her and hold accountable those responsible for her unjust detention and the various human rights violations she has had to endure," he demanded.