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Duterte: De Lima 'has to face the music'

MANILA, Philippines – For President Rodrigo Duterte, it's about time drug charges were filed against Senator Leila de Lima.

"She has to face the music," Duterte said in a chance interview with reporters on Friday, February 17, after visiting the wake of soldiers killed in action in Davao City.

On Friday afternoon, the Department of Justice filed drug charges against De Lima for her alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison drug trade she was justice secretary.

Duterte is convinced the DOJ has filed a solid case against the senator, his fiercest critic in the Senate and long-time adversary.

"Ilang testigo 'yan (It involved so many witnesses). It took them months to develop the case. Alam naman ng Pilipino 'yan. Alam ng Pilipino na ganyan talaga ang istilo niya (The Filipinos know that.  Filipinos know that's her style)," said the President.

Months before, Duterte had said that De Lima will "surely go to jail" given the testimonial evidence pointing to how she supposedly facilitated the drug trade at the national state penitentiary.

The President was the first to accuse De Lima of involvement in illegal drug trade. Soon, her alleged involvement became the subject of a sensational probe initiated by Duterte's allies in the House of Representatives, where several high-profile inmates served as witnesses.

Duterte began to attack De Lima after the senator criticized the human rights abuses in his controversial war on drugs, and initiated a Senate probe into extrajudicial killings in the key administration campaign.

De Lima, in a statement, called the DOJ case "plain and simple political persecution" and said she was ready to be the "first political prisoner" of the Duterte administration.

The lady senator first earned Duterte's ire when she led investigations into his ties to the so-called Davao Death Squad back when she was chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights.

She has been an outspoken critic of his controversial war against drugs, leading a Senate probe into it before she was ousted from the Senate justice committee chairmanship. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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