Senator De Lima and her party have decried the charges, which allege that De Lima took bribes from imprisoned drug traffickers, as false and politically motivated
Leila de Lima, the firebrand Philippine senator who has openly criticised President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, has been arrested for allegedly taking bribes from imprisoned drug traffickers.
The charges stem from events that allegedly took place during her stint as secretary of the Department of Justice between 2010 and 2016. De Lima was also head of a Senate committee investigating Duterte’s drug war, before she was removed from that position in September 2016 – for what have also been labelled political reasons.
De Lima spent the night inside the Senate in Manila to avoid arrest on Thursday, but she handed herself over to police on Friday morning, telling reporters: “It is my honour to be imprisoned for the things I am fighting for. They will not be able to silence me and stop me from fighting for the truth and justice and against the daily killings and repression by the Duterte regime.”
De Lima has dismissed the charges as false.
“These are all lies,” she said of the charges. “The truth will come out at the right time. If they think they can stop me from fighting these daily murders, they are wrong.”
De Lima and President Duterte have been engaged in a public war of words since he came into office last June, particularly over his drug war that has seen more than 7,000 supposed drug traffickers killed in extrajudicial vigilante-style killings.
The charges were brought against De Lima by the Philippine Justice Department, which is headed by justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, a fraternity brother of Duterte. Aguirre’s department has accused De Lima of using drug money received from imprisoned drug traffickers for her Senate campaign last year, saying that the inmates received special privileges in return.
De Lima’s Liberal Party decried the charges as politically motivated.
“This arrest is purely political vendetta and has no place in [a] justice system that upholds the rule of law. This is condemnable. We reiterate that an arrest based on trumped-up charges is illegal,” it said in a statement.