Philippine law enforcers arrest Duterte critic on drug charges

Manny Mogato, Reuters

Posted at Feb 24 2017 09:30 AM

Senator Leila de Lima is escorted by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, who served an arrest warrant, as she departs from the Senate in Pasay City, 24 February 2017.Mike Alquinto, NPPA

MANILA - A Philippine senator and staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs was arrested on Friday after charges were filed in court alleging she received money from drug dealers inside the country's prisons.

Senator Leila de Lima, her former driver and bodyguard and a former national prison official were ordered to be arrested by a local court after a judge found merit in criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice last week.

"The truth will come out and I will achieve justice. I am innocent," she told reporters shortly before law enforcers escorted her away from her office.

She is facing two more drug-related charges in the same court.

De Lima, a human rights lawyer before joining government, says the charges are a vendetta against her after she last year led a Senate probe into alleged extrajudicial killings during Duterte's anti-drugs crackdown.

On Tuesday she described Duterte as a "sociopathic serial killer" and urged his cabinet to declare him unfit to rule because he had a "criminal mind".

"These are all lies," De Lima said, adding the charges will not silence her.

According to complaint filed at a regional trial court, de Lima received 5 million Philippine pesos ($99,850) delivered by the former prison official to her home when she was justice minister between 2010 and 2016.

The criminal cases filed against the senator and two others are non-bailable.

Duterte's chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Thursday de Lima should "welcome this development as she is now given the opportunity to refute any and all allegations and/or evidence to be presented by the prosecution against her."

About 7,700 people have died in the drug crackdown, with more than 2,500 people killed in operations when street-level drug peddlers resist arrest and fight back, according to police.

De Lima was removed by Duterte's allies as head of the investigation into extrajudicial killings and just days later came under investigation herself in a congressional inquiry in which witnesses testified to her having pivotal role in the narcotics trade.