Philippines arrests staunch critic of president

Senator Leila de Lima was arrested on charges that she received money from drug dealers.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Philippine Senator Leila De Lima leaves her office at the Senate after she was arrested on drug charges in Manila, Philippines, February 24, 2017.

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

Senator Leila de Lima, her bodyguard, a former driver, and a former national prison official, were 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, who was a human rights lawyer before joining the 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 a complaint filed at a regional trial court, de Lima received 5 million Philippine pesos ($99,850) delivered by a former prison official to her home when she was justice minister between 2010 and 2016.

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

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.