Duterte defends De Lima: She’s just doing her job

Pia Ranada
After his appointees heap criticisms on De Lima, Duterte comes to her defense and says he would do the same if he were in her position

MANILA, Philippines – Mortal enemies? President Rodrigo Duterte said that far from condemning Senator Leila De Lima’s plan to probe his war on drugs, he thinks she’s just doing her job.

“I do not blame De Lima, trabaho niya ‘yan eh,” said Duterte on Wednesday, August 3, during a speech in front of election volunteers in Malacañang Palace. (I do not blame De Lima, it’s her job.)

His defense of De Lima comes after Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the lady senator is “welcome” to begin the Senate probe in mid-August.

Duterte mentioned De Lima after telling his audience about how he was the “favorite whipping boy” of human rights groups when he was Davao City mayor. Even then, De Lima, who used to be chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, was among Duterte’s fiercest critics.  

After saying it’s De Lima’s job to look into the surge of drug-related killings, Duterte said he would do the same if he were in her position.

Kasi kung ako nandiyan, yayariin din kita (Because if I was in that position, I will also pin you down),” he said. 

Duterte’s defense of De Lima is unexpected, given the many times he called her out for investigating his involvement in extrajudicial killings when she supposedly did little to curb the spread of drugs in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary.

De Lima, in her first privilege speech on Tuesday, accused Duterte’s appointees of portraying her as a protector of drug lords and “enemy” of the government. (READ: FULL TEXT: De Lima’s privilege speech on extrajudicial killings)

The only warm moment between the two occurred moments before Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address when he shook her hand on his way to the podium, a gesture which also surprised De Lima. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.