MANILA - Malacañang denied Senator Leila de Lima is being subjected to political persecution.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea dismissed as mere "sound bites" De Lima's statement that she is being persecuted politically.
"It's a criminal case filed against her, it's not a political case na which was filed against her."
A Muntinlupa court on Thursday issued a warrant of arrest for De Lima, her former driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, and former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos for drug charges.
De Lima managed to evade arrest on Thursday evening but presented herself to authorities on Friday morning.
Days before the court ordered her arrest, De Lima said she was prepared to become the first “political prisoner” under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I have long prepared myself to be the first political prisoner under this regime, because the criminal charges and prosecution are nothing less than a politically motivated act by the Duterte regime to clamp down on any vocal opposition against its support for a policy of EJK [extra-judicial killing] in dealing with suspected criminals,” De Lima said.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), however, said De Lima’s description of her ordeal is “disgracefully hypocritical”.
The NUPL said that while De Lima’s treatment has “all the appearances of political harassment, corruption of legal and judicial processes, selective punishment and abuse of transitory power,” it should be noted that many other prisoners were thrown in jail for “far nobler causes."
“When things have calmed down, and it's ‘business as usual’ for political accommodations, horse-trading and legal wranglings, and after all the charivari, finger-pointing and self-righteous posturings have died down, the fundamental problems of our society, the cries of the poor and oppressed, and the need for genuine reforms including consistently upholding the rule of justice without fear or favor remain,” said the NUPL, which represents mostly farmers, activists, indigenous peoples, social workers and peace consultants.