Senator Leila de Lima of the Philippines was arrested earlier today on charges that she received bribes from convicted drug traffickers, a charge which she has denied, and said is a case of “political persecution.” Ms. de Lima is described as “the leading domestic critic” of President Rodrigo Duterte and his Philippine drug war by the New York Times.
Amnesty International has written a report on 59 “extrajudicial executions” since the war began, titled “The police’s murderous war on the poor.”
In 2016, a self-reported Duterte assassin appeared before de Lima at a Senate panel headed by the 57-year-old politician. A retired police officer was said to have given a similar account just days ago.
According to the Inquirer, in early August, Leila de Lima stated in a Senate speech, “We cannot wage the war against drugs with blood. We will be trading drug addiction with another more malevolent kind of addiction.”
In September, de Lima, a former chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, was removed from serving as justice secretary and chair of the Philippine Senate, after President Duterte alleged that the she was having a romantic affair with Ronnie Dayan, who was employed as a bodyguard and driver, and that the two were involved in accepting payments from those involved in drug trafficking for protection. Dayan has testified that he “collected money on the senator’s behalf.”
Duterte has referred to de Lima as “immoral” and suggested that she take her own life. An NSFW YouTube video, published in August, shows the Philippine president mimicking the senator.
After remaining in her office, where she has immunity, for a period on Thursday, the senator stated that she intended to say goodbye to members of her family and indicated that she will likely turn herself in. Authorities were expected to move to detain her Thursday evening.
“I have no intention to flee or hide,” de Lima was quoted by the Times. “I will face these charges.”
Leila de Lima is reported to have admitted to having an affair with her bodyguard, as reported by GMA News Online. She has continued to profess her innocence with regard to any connection to drug trafficking, as reported by CNN.
The chief legal adviser for Duterte, Salvador Panelo, said that de Lima should welcome the “opportunity to refute any and all the allegations and/or evidence” that will be presented in the proceedings against her. Duterte has said that de Lima needs to “face the music.”
In addition to Ronnie Dayan’s testimony that he accepted payments on behalf of Senator de Lima, prisoners at a facility controlled by her Justice Department have been “directly linked” to the former secretary. De Lima claims that the prisoners were “pressured” to give testimony against her and that Duterte and his administration have an “‘ax’ to grind with her.”
A raid conducted on the maximum security portion of the New Bilibid Prison, located in Muntinlupa, was conducted under Leila de Lima’s leadership. The results of the operation were revelations of “high-profile” prisoners living “luxurious” lives. The same prisoners are now included in those who have given testimony against her.
The Liberal Party of the Philippines issued a statement calling the issuing of the warrants a “political vendetta” and citing a belief that the charges should have been addressed in an anti-corruption court. The party stated that it is concerned for “Ms. de Lima’s life,” as a result of a Philippine mayor, accused of drug trafficking by Duterte, being slain in his jail cell after police officers reported that the mayor had “pulled a gun” on them during a search.
[Featured Image by Bullit Marquez/AP Images]