Philippines: Jailed Duterte critic Leila De Lima held hostage as police kill 3 inmates amid rampage in Manila prison
- Police said that Leila De Lima was being used as a cover by inmates, whose intentions were to escape from prison
- The outspoken critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug war has been behind bars since 2017 on drug trafficking charges that she denies
Philippine police killed three inmates, including a top Abu Sayyaf militant, after they stabbed an officer and briefly held a detained former opposition Senator on Sunday in a failed attempt to escape from the police.
Jailed Philippine human rights campaigner Leila De Lima was briefly taken hostage on Sunday during the attempted breakout.
The incident happened at the national police headquarters, where de Lima, a former Senator, has been held for more than five years with other high-profile detainees.
One of the three inmates stabbed a police officer who was delivering breakfast to the inmates after dawn. A police officer posted at a sentry tower fired warning shots, and then shot and killed two of the prisoners, including Abu Sayyaf Commander Idang Susukan, when they refused to yield, police said.
The third inmate ran to the cell of de Lima and briefly held her hostage but he was also gunned down by police commandos, Azurin said.
“She’s safe. We were able to quickly resolve the incident inside the custodial centre,” National police chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jnr told reporters.
Police said that the situation inside the detention facility had “returned to normal”. An investigation was under way.
Azurin told a local radio station that De Lima did not appear to have been the target.
“They saw her as an ideal cover. Their intention really was to escape,” he said.
De Lima was unhurt, Boni Tacardon, her lawyer, confirmed to Agence France-Presse.
“She was brought to the hospital for the standard medical check-up,” Tacardon said.
“But based on the information given to us by our staff who’s with the Senator now, she appears OK.”
De Lima has been an outspoken critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug war.
She has been behind bars since 2017 on drug trafficking charges that she and human rights groups have called a mockery of justice and payback for going after Duterte.
Since President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr took power in June, there have been renewed calls from diplomats and rights defenders for de Lima to be released.
The latest incident underscored the need for her to be “freed immediately”, said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch.
Before her arrest on February 24, 2017, De Lima had spent a decade investigating “death squad” killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as Davao City mayor and in the early days of his presidency.
She conducted the probes while serving as the nation’s human rights commissioner, then from 2010 to 2015 as justice secretary in the Benigno Aquino administration that preceded Duterte’s rule.
De Lima won a Senate seat in 2016, becoming one of the few opposition voices as the populist Duterte enjoyed a landslide win.
But Duterte then accused her of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals inside the nation’s biggest prison while she was justice secretary.
Additional reporting by Associated Press