The Philipppines: Arrested Duterte critic is high-flying lawyer who became rights crusader

February 24, 2017

Philippine drug war critic Leila de Lima was a highly paid lawyer who switched focus mid-career to human rights, a decision that would draw her into the deadly world of President Rodrigo Duterte.

De Lima was arrested on Friday (Feb 24) on drug trafficking charges which she insisted were manufactured to silence her opposition to Duterte’s anti-crime crackdown, which has claimed more than 6,500 lives in eight months.

De Lima, 57, began her career as one of the brightest legal prospects in the Philippines, having scored the eighth highest mark in the country’s annual lawyer licence exams in 1985.

She worked as a law clerk for the House of Representatives and as a legal aide of a Supreme Court associate justice, while building a successful law practice that specialised in helping prominent politicians in election court challenges.

De Lima helped now-Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jnr to unseat a senate election rival, and future senator Alan Peter Cayetano beat a suit alleging he was not a Filipino citizen and therefore not qualified to run for office.

Ironically, Pimentel and Cayetano are now among the most powerful allies of Duterte, a longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao who won presidential elections last year after promising to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

De Lima’s life turned in 2008 when she accepted her first government post as chairwoman of the government’s independent Commission on Human Rights. (FRANCAIS)




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