NEWS BRIEF The Philippine politician at the head of an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, and who presented a man last week who claimed Duterte ran a hit squad as mayor of Davao city, was removed Monday from her position as head of the Senate’s justice committee.
Senator Leila de Lima, Duterte’s most vocal critic, has questioned the president’s crackdown that resulted in more than 3,500 deaths, many of them caused by vigilantes. Lawmakers’ vote to remove de Lima came around the same time Duterte said he would need to extend his war on drugs for another six months, more than doubling his original time-length. “Even if I wanted to, I cannot kill them all,” Duterte said of his country’s criminals.
On Monday, legislators voted 16 to 4 to unseat de Lima, after Duterte’s allies said the witness she brought before the investigatory panel last week had tarnished the country’s international image. The motion to remove her was brought by Manny Pacquiao, the senator and boxer. The vote was called “unprecedented,” by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and gained momentum after a speech by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s close political ally. The Inquirer reported that:
Cayetano, running mate of Mr. Duterte, said De Lima was among those misleading the people and the international media to destroy the image of the chamber as an institution and to distract senators from the much-needed work to be done.
He also said “long-honored traditions of collegiality and civility” among senators were being destroyed, following last week’s Senate hearing in which De Lima presented confessed hit man Edgar Matobato who linked the President to Davao Death Squad (DDS) execution of criminals when Mr. Duterte was mayor.
As The Atlantic reported last week, de Lima’s witness tied Duterte to his controversial time as mayor of the southern city of Davao. Duterte reduced crime in the city during the two decades he served as mayor. But rumors—some of which he nurtured by bragging about in the press—of how he accomplished that reduction followed him throughout the election.