See More on Facebook

Politics

Profile: Leila de Lima

Leila de Lima, Philippines senator heralded by international observers and prosecuted by her own government for drug charges.


Written by

Updated: April 3, 2018

In the eyes of many members of the international community, Senator Leila de Lima is a staunch defender of human rights in the Philippines, a powerful voice for those targeted by President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, which critics claim disproportionately affects the poor. Within the borders of her of her own country, however, she is battling to clear her name after being arrested and charged for drug-related offenses in 2017.

Last week, Malacañang lashed out at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for demanding the release De Lima.

 “The IPU’s resolution reiterating its concern to the continued trial and detention of Sen. De Lima exposes its ignorance on the workings of the justice system in the Philippines,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

It is the latest bump in the road in De Lima’s relatively short stint as a politician. Like her father before her, the senator began her professional life as a lawyer. Young De Lima excelled in school, first earning her AB degree in history and political science and De La Salle University before studying law at San Reda College of Law. She was one of the top performers in the bar exams, finishing eighth in the country.

De Lima went on to work for the Supreme court and various law firms before opening her own firm and establishing herself as one of the country’s best-known election lawyers.

It was then that she made the transition to human rights work, a path that would ultimately thrust her into the international spotlight and see her both praised and vilified.

She became Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights in May 2008 June 30, winning a string of prizes for her work.

It was during this time that De Lima took her first swipe at Duterte, then Mayor of the Southern city of Davao, investigating his possible involvement in the activities of the so-called Davao Death Squad thought to be responsible for a string of extra-judicial killings in the city.

In 2010, she was appointed Philippines’ Secretary of the Department of Justice by then-president Benigno S. Aquino III. She has pursued a number of high-profile targets, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in 2011.

De Lima successfully ran for a seat in senate in the 2016 elections – the same elections that saw Duterte claim the Presidency.

Since then, she has become a vocal critic of the strongman, particularly his war on drugs, which has lead to the deaths of thousands in a bloody crackdown that critics have slammed for disproportionately affecting the poor.

Duterte has since fired back, accusing De Lima of involvement in the drug trade when she was Justice Secretary.

The accusations centre on activities at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), which was linked to the illegal drug trade during a raid by De Lima in 2014. De Lima is accused of involvement in the trade, allegedly accepting money from the imprisoned drug lords to fund her senate campaign.

Her driver Ronnie Dayan, with whom she was accused and later admitted to having a relationship, was said to have received the money on De Lima’s behalf.

The bulk of the people who have testified against De Lima are convicted criminals and no hard evidence of the money allegedly received from the dealers has been found.

Still, De Lima’s name has not been cleared, though she continues to voice her criticisms of Duterte’s regime.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Politics

Philippines government says no cheating in mid-term elections

Duterte’s government says left’s defeat was due to its own shortcomings. The loss of senatorial candidates and party-list groups backed by the Left should be a “wake-up call to re-asses their actions,” Malacañang said Wednesday. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued this statement as he dismissed the claim of Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes that the midterm elections were not that credible due to cheating. “We expect the likes of Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes to cry “cheating” and question the ‘Duterte magic’ following the crushing defeat of many left-leaning party-list groups and their candidate for senator, Mr. Neri Colmenares, in this year’s elections,” Panelo said. In a statement, Reyes said the “Duterte magic” was the “use of government resources to favor administration bets, use of the AFP and PNP to target and harass opposition gr


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 16, 2019

Politics

Junta loyalists pack Senate in Thailand

The senate will have a key role to play in choosing the next prime minister. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took a major step towards retaining power by naming scores of people it patronises and who are loyal to it as constitutionally endorsed senators. Of the 250 names announced yesterday for the junta-picked Senate, 104 were military or police officers –retired and in service – while other figures included former members of junta-appointed bodies who had served the post-coup regime in the past five years. The move marks an about-turn for the junta, which had pledged to stay away from politics and had come to power promising to cleanse the country of corruption and nepotism. In addition to people from the Armed Forces, the senator list also included family members of junta leaders as well as close aides. The list includes General Pree


By The Nation (Thailand)
May 15, 2019

Politics

Duterte drug war ’won’ in 2019 senatorial race

The mid-term votes seem to back Duterte’s government and his policies. President Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war “just won” as administration-backed senatorial candidates are poised to claim victory in the 2019 polls, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday. Locsin said Monday’s vote is seen as a gauge of public support for Duterte’s war on drugs. “The elections were a referendum on Duterte and his war on drugs. He & the war just won,” he said in a Twitter post. He added: “The Senatorial elections were not a referendum in favor of Charter change either, the death penalty, and jailing minors.” He said the public should already “shut up” on the matter as the drug war “goes on.” “So shut the f*** up on that subject everybody. The war goes on,” the foreign secretary said. In the latest update of partial and unofficial tally of vo


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 15, 2019

Politics

Philippines sets mid-term election date

The government warns people, groups with ‘sinister plans’ on Election Day. Malacañang on Friday cautioned “those who have sinister plans and evil machinations” in the May 13 midterm elections to stop their scheme or they would be prosecuted. President Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the “stern warning” as he urged “candidates across the political spectrum” to ask their supporters to observe an honest and peaceful elections. He cited that “concerns and apprehensions have been raised by various quarters relative to the conduct of the coming elections” but assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte “has put in place measures designed to determine if cheating has been committed in the polls.”“We are thus issuing a stern warning to those who have sin


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 13, 2019

Politics

Pakistan reaches agreement with IMF

The country will receive $6 billion over 3 years. The technical teams of the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached an agreement on a bailout package for Pakistan, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh announced on Sunday. “After months of discussions and negotiations, a staff-level agreement has been reached between Pakistan and the IMF,” he said while speaking on state-run PTV News. Dr Shaikh revealed that Pakistan would receive $6 billion worth of assistance under the IMF programme over a period of three years. He said the staff-level agreement, which must still be approved by the IMF board of directors in Washington, would show that


By Dawn
May 13, 2019

Politics

India’s political parties and their foreign policy platform

Where do India’s major political parties stand on foreign policy issues in Elections 2019. Foreign policy debates have historically been foreign to Indian election campaigns. But photo-ops with international leaders are always welcome because they help burnish the credentials of politicians with the domestic audience. Images of India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru rubbing shoulders with Presidents Sukarno and Nasser of Indonesia and Egypt, respectively, at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference in 1955 certainly did his image as a world statesman no harm. The television broadcast of his daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, being enveloped in a surprise bear hug by ‘elder brother’ Fidel Castro at the 1983 Non-Aligned Movement Conference in New Delhi, was widely thought to have humanised the otherwise aloof Mrs G for millions in India. In more recent times, Rajiv Gandhi’s


By Ishan Joshi
May 13, 2019