Government News Analysis

De Lima arrested – finally

Around 8 o’clock this morning, Philippine senator, Leila De Lima, was taken from the Philippine Senate building in Pasay City, Metro Manila to the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame. There she will be held sine die as she awaits trial on charges of profiteering from the sale of illegal drugs.

The former Justice Secretary was due to have been arrested last night, but the arresting force – the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG) was prevented from carrying out its duties by a policy put in place by Senate president, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III; De Lima’s arrest evasion.

Before being taken away, however, De Lima was permitted to hold yet another press conference – inside the Senate building – where she again protested her innocence, claiming that the charges against her were politically motivated.

After a breakfast of coffee and pandesal, she approached the zoo of media and said she was leaving “voluntarily” with the CIDG team which had been staking out the Senate overnight.

“There is no truth, they are all lies, all the allegations against me that I benefited from drugs, that I received drug money, that I coddled drug convicts. All these are lies. The truth will come out, at the right time,” she said.

Then, once more, she went into her ‘Champion of Truth” role. “If they think they can silence me, if they think that I will no longer fight for what I believe in, especially for the truth and for justice for everyday killings and other suppression and oppression of the Duterte regime, it is my honour to be jailed for what I am fighting for. Please just pray for me.”

And with that, accompanied by her lawyer, Alex Padilla, she was led away by the Senate’s Sergeant-of-Arms and into the arms of the waiting CIDG team. They then set off for Camp Crame pursued by a media convoy.

Camp Crame, is the country’s prime detention centre for high-profile detainees. Before being shown her accommodation, De Lima will go through the booking process in the multi-purpose hall. She will also undergo a brief medical exam and have her finger prints and mug shots taken.

But the camp’s Custodial Centre (photo) where she will stay, is beginning to look a bit like the senate in exile. Among its current residents are fellow senators, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada, son of former Philippine president, Joseph Estrada. They’re both facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the 2014 Pork Barrel Scam – the misappropriation of PHP10 billion-worth of discretionary funding made to members of Congress under the Priority Development Assistance Fund. Revilla’s court appearance has been set for next month.

In the early hours of this morning, social media was alive with reports of a gathering protest at the Senate. Fortunately, that never materialised. That said, we can expect De Lima supporters to be out in force tomorrow when factions opposed to President Rodrigo Duterte converge on the EDSA Shrine at Quezon City, Manila, for the 31st anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution.