Protesters clash with police in Philippines

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FORMER President Benigno Aquino III was anxious about the safety of his former Justice secretary, Senator Leila de Lima, who was arrested over drug charges, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Friday.

Reports said Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero issued the arrest warrant against De Lima and her co-accused, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and her former driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.

She denounced the charges as “plain and simple political persecution” for her opposition to Duterte’s drug war, which has left thousands of people dead amid police operations and alleged extrajudicial killings.

She worked as a law clerk for the House of Representatives and as a legal aide of a Supreme Court associate justice, while building a successful law practice that specialised in helping prominent politicians in election court challenges.

De Lima maintained her innocence and insisted that she never accepted drug money or coddled or protected drug suspects when she was Justice secretary in the previous administration.

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

The statement was released to media by the office of Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), which is a full member of the LI.

The Palace also denied it was targeting Duterte’s top critic, even though the President vowed “to destroy her in public” past year.

De Lima returned to Camp Crame at 1:11 p.m. Friday.

But according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, the cases filed against Senator De Lima are all “criminal in nature” and are “not politically motivated”.

The arrest warrant was issued just less than a week after the charges were filed against Lima, who has denied the charges.

Foreign minister Perfecto Yasay said yesterday that the Philippines government would vehemently defend its anti-drug campaign at an upcoming meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

The 57-year-old lawyer, who has spent almost a decade trying to link Duterte to death squads that have allegedly killed thousands of people, could be jailed for life if she is found guilty of drug trafficking. Leila de Lima’s membership in the Senate and in the Philippine bar is in serious jeopardy as complaints against her may no longer be withdrawn.

Vice-President Leni Robredo and other political allies expressed support to de Lima, saying she was being persecuted for criticizing the president. “It’s my honour to be jailed for the principles I am fighting for”, she later told reporters, before she turned herself over to a police team sent to arrest her.

While protesters and supporters of Duterte were present at the annual celebration, the president spent the weekend at his southern home in Davao.

Ms De Lima has said that the government’s case rests largely on testimonies that inmates were coerced into giving. Leila de Lima, has set off sharp verbal exchanges as they have argued over his anti-drug crackdown, which has led to more than 7,000 deaths since last June. In early August, Leila de Lima stated “We can not wage the war against drugs with blood”.

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