MANILA - President Duterte's chief legal counsel on Thursday said the impending arrest of Senator Leila de Lima over drug charges filed before a local court is the law of karma catching up with the former justice chief.
Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the issuance of an arrest warrant means the judge found probable cause that De Lima may have committed the crime.
He added De Lima must welcome the development since she can now refute all allegations against her in a court of law and not just through media.
"The rule of law, as President Duterte keeps on harping every time he has the opportunity, must prevail," he said in a statement.
Panelo said De Lima's impending arrest is different from the time when the then-justice chief effected the arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2011. A Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge issued the arrest warrant against Arroyo after she was charged with electoral sabotage by the Commission Elections (Comelec).
"Unlike when she effected the arrest of former President GMA despite the absence of a criminal charge and a warrant of arrest [De Lima] will now be arrested and detained pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by a competent court. She is being given due process which she shamelessly denied FPGMA [former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] when she was Secretary of Justice," Panelo said.
"The law of karma has finally caught up with the Senator in terms of being arrested and detained. She, however, remains constitutionally presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a presumption she viciously denied the critics of the previous administration."
De Lima is facing arrest on drug charges filed by the justice department last week. Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 signed the order to issue an arrest warrant against De Lima.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said he expected the issuance of the arrest warrant since the justice department filed a strong case against the senator.
Aguirre said "any of the police agencies—the Philippine National Police, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, or even the National Bureau of Investigation could arrest the senator."