Duterte Critic Indicted for Drug Trafficking, Claims Persecution

  • Senator de Lima accused of conspiracy to distribute narcotics
  • Lawmaker calls charges retaliation for opposing drug war

Philippine government prosecutors charged one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunchest critics with drug trafficking, accusing Senator Leila de Lima of allowing the illicit narcotics trade to flourish inside the national jail during her time as justice secretary.

Prosecutors filed three separate criminal complaints Friday accusing de Lima of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs dating back to when she had oversight of the prison system from 2010 until 2015, and she could face life imprisonment and a fine if convicted. De Lima called the indictments politically motivated and said they were meant to clamp down on her opposition to Duterte’s deadly drug war.

“If the loss of my freedom is the price I have to pay for standing up against the butchery of the Duterte regime, then it is a price I am willing to pay,” de Lima said in a statement. “But they are mistaken if they think my fight ends here. It has only begun.”

De Lima has been a critic of Duterte for years, leading the Commission on Human Rights when it investigated Duterte’s drug war in Davao City when he was mayor. She continued that criticism when he took his bloody campaign to the national level after becoming president last June. Duterte previously responded to her criticism by accusing her of drug trafficking and conducting an extramarital affair.

De Lima’s drug cases will next be randomly assigned to a judge, who will determine whether a warrant should be issued for her arrest.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre denied pressuring prosecutors to indict the senator, saying probable cause was established after a careful study of the cases.

“This isn’t politics,” he said.

Duterte was quoted by CNN Philippines as saying: “She will have to face the music.”

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