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

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 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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