Duterte's counsel on De Lima arrest: Law shines triumphantly

The Philippine Senator Leila De Lima has alleged that her arrest over drug charges was President Rodrigo Duterte's way of silencing critics of his intensified campaign against illegal drugs that has claimed lives of around 7,000 Filipinos.

She slept in her Senate office overnight then gave herself up to armed officers in flak jackets who put her in a van and drove into morning rush hour traffic apparently towards police headquarters.

The warrant of arrest, which pertains to Criminal Case No. 17-165, charges De Lima and two others of violating Section 5 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Phelim Kine of the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Duterte had "effectively expanded his "drug war" from the urban poor to the legislative branch" by arresting de Lima. "I am innocent", she told reporters shortly before being escorted away.

Duterte first raised allegations in August that De Lima had been running a drug trafficking ring with criminals inside the nation's biggest prison when she was the justice secretary in the previous government. This is after her investigation of the Davao Death Squad when she was still the Chairperson of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR).

"What we're seeing is nothing less than a political vendetta in which President Duterte is targeting his highest-profile critic and challenger of his abusive war on drugs", said Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

Malacañang, however, fended off the criticisms and guaranteed that de Lima would get fair treatment while in detention.

"You can see on her face the indignation, as if she were saying, "I would do this as part of the process" even if she did not believe she needed to do that", Bag-ao said.


But an ally of De Lima in the House cried political persecution at a time the country is commemorating the Edsa People Power revolt.

During his more than 20 years as mayor of Davao City, split across three different periods, Mr. Duterte gained a reputation for being tough on crime - a reputation he relished.

"The haste is deplorable", they said in a statement, noting the judge just came from a trip to Macau and could not possibly have studied the "thick" motion to quash De Lima filed last Monday.

More than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed by police and unknown assassins since Duterte assumed power in July past year.

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon said De Lima could continue her job as a lawmaker since she is not suspended.

Independent Senator Francis Escudero said he was saddened by recent events.

In a video statement posted to her Facebook page before her arrest, de Lima accused Duterte of being the mastermind of the charges, which she called manufactured and politically motivated.

As of this reporting, Ms.de Lima is detained at the PNP Custodial Center where former senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Jose "Jinggoy" E. Estrada are also detained for plunder charges.

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