Senator Leila de Lima, former head of the Department of Justice, speaks before church leaders during the observance of the World Day Against Death Penalty on Oct. 9. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)
A Philippine senator said she has already surrendered herself to God amid allegations linking her to the illegal drugs trade in the country. "I prepared myself already for the worst. I already said goodbye to my family," said Senator Leila de Lima, former head of the Department of Justice. Several convicted inmates who have testified before an ongoing congressional inquiry linked the senator to the illegal drug trade. De Lima denied the allegations, saying the testimonies were "fabrications" designed to discredit her. The senator has been a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who launched an "all-out war" against narcotics.
The government's anti-illegal drugs campaign has resulted in the death of some 3,500 suspected drug users and dealers. De Lima has accused Duterte of having a hand in the summary executions of drug-related personalities and criminals. The president has repeatedly vowed to end the illegal drugs trade and criminality in the country after he assumed office on June 30. The president even urged the public to shoot and kill drug dealers who resist arrest and fight back in their neighborhoods. If a drug dealer resists arrest or refuses to be brought to a police station and threatens a citizen with a gun or a knife, "you can kill him," Duterte told policemen in a speech after his election. The 71-year-old Duterte won the May 9 presidential election on a bold promise to end crime and corruption within six months of his presidency. Human rights groups have expressed alarm that his anti-crime drive may lead to widespread rights violations. Fight to the last breath
De Lima said she will "continue to fight this evil up to my last breath." "Whenever I pray I ask, Lord, do I deserve all this?" said the senator in a speech during the observance of the World Day Against Death Penalty at the Catholic bishops' conference on Oct. 10. "For two weeks already I've been wearing black because I'm in mourning. I'm mourning because of what is happening in our country," said De Lima. She said she has been mourning for the victims of killings, summary executions and extrajudicial killings. "I'm mourning for the continuous lies and deception," added De Lima. The senator said she will be relentless in defending her honor. Rodolfo Diamante, head of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the bishops' conference, said he finds it hard to believe the allegations against De Lima. "With my knowledge and working relationship with her, I could not believe that she is behind the drug trade," said Diamante. He urged authorities to file a case against De Lima if there is evidence against the senator. On Oct. 10, the Justice Department ordered the issuance of a "lookout bulletin" for De Lima and several former government officials. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre issued the "extremely urgent" order to the immigration bureau to monitor the flights, activities, travel, and whereabouts of De Lima and the other officials.
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