Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, 57, a chief critic and opponent of new President Rodrigo Duterte, has been in jail for a month on what she says are false charges of taking payoffs from drug traffickers. Lima, a lawyer and grandmother, claims that Duterte imprisoned her in order to silence her — were it not for the international attention her case has drawn, she believes she might already be dead.
Lima earned Duterte’s ire in 2008, when she was chairwoman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and led an investigation into extrajudicial killings in Davao City, of which Duterte had been mayor. Later, as chairwoman of the Senate Justice Committee, she pursued probes into a Duterte anti-drug campaign that has seen thousands of suspected drug users and pushers murdered by police and vigilantes. Last September, she oversaw the testimony of Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman who said he had worked for Duterte as part of a group called the Davao Death Squad.
Rather than respond to Matobato’s accusations, Duterte instead went after his chief investigator. In public statements, he said that Lima had made a sex tape — which he professed to have watched — and claimed that she had an affair with her driver. Most damagingly, he accused her of taking millions of dollars from convicted drug traffickers in order to finance her senate campaign — a charge on which Lima was arrested in February.
Later in February, Matobato’s testimony would be corroborated by a former police officer who said that Duterte had ordered him to murder two of his own brothers.
Even after imprisoning his nemesis, Duterte has continued to publicly insult Lima. On Wednesday, Duterte referred to his opponent as “queen Satan” with a “thick face” while on a trip to Thailand. Lima, denied access to a laptop or a phone, can only respond in letters.
“Unsatisfied with the fact that he was already able to imprison me, he continues to destroy me before various audiences like a market fishwife,” wrote Lima in a recent letter. “[He] leaves no dignity whatsoever to the office he holds. I pity the president for believing in his own lies.”
In October, a mayor of a small Philippine town who Duterte publicly accused of drug trafficking was shot to death in his own cell by police. Lima, for one, is hoping she doesn’t meet the same fate.
Read the full story at The New York Times.