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Philippine court orders arrest of prominent critic of Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.
Philippine Senator Leila de Lima. Bullit Marquez/AP/file

MANILA — A Philippine opposition senator and leading critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly antidrug crackdown was arrested Friday on drug charges but professed her innocence and vowed she would not be intimidated by a leader she called a ‘‘serial killer.’’

Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest came a day after the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa city in the Manila metropolis issued the warrant for her arrest along with other officials who have been charged by state prosecutors for allegedly receiving bribes from detained drug lords.

De Lima has denied the charges, which she said were part of an attempt by Duterte to muzzle critics of his crackdown, which has left more than 7,000 drug suspects dead. She questioned why the court suddenly issued the arrest order when it was scheduled Friday to hear her petition to void the three nonbailable charges.

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‘‘If they think they can silence me, if they think I will no longer fight for my advocacies, specially on the truth on the daily killings and other intimidations of this Duterte regime, it’s my honor to be jailed for what I’ve been fighting for,’’ she said before policemen took her into custody at the Senate.

When de Lima headed the government’s Commission on Human Rights, she tried unsuccessfully to have Duterte prosecuted when he was mayor of Davao city for allegedly unlawful deaths that occurred during an anti-drug crackdown in the city. No witnesses came forward then to testify against the mayor, human rights officials said.

In one of her strongest statements against the president this week, de Lima called Duterte a ‘‘sociopathic serial killer’’ who has not been made to answer for more than 1,000 deaths during his crackdown in Davao city as its mayor.

Associated Press