MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday decried what she called "political harassment" by the administration against Sen. Leila De Lima.
In a statement, Robredo said that De Lima's arrest Friday was part of a political agenda and not a result of an "independent, unbiased" legal process.
Robredo said that De Lima's political harassment began soon after she started an investigation into the extrajudicial killings that transpired in the wake of the administration's anti-drugs campaign.
"The arrest of Senator Leila de Lima is the latest move in a persistent campaign of political harassment being waged against a duly-elected member of Congress," the vice president said.
De Lima turned herself in to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group led by Chief Superintendent Roel Obusan on Friday morning after spending the night at her office in the Senate. A Muntinlupa court issued a warrant for her arrest on drug charges Thursday afternoon.
Robredo said authorities used contradicting testimonies from "criminals"—testimony against her came from New Bilibid Prison inmates whom she allegedly collected money from for her senatorial campaign in 2016—and undermined due process to hasten the issuance of the arrest order against De Lima.
Although charges were filed by the Department of Justice, arrest warrants are issued by courts, which are part of a separate branch of the government.
Robredo invited the public to "religiously" follow and scrutinize De Lima's case.
Robredo called on the public to continue fighting for the right to speak contrary views, which she said is the foundation of the country's strength as a free and democratic nation.
"Our history as a nation is marred by instances where government officials use the processes of criminal justice to cow, silence, and eliminate critics," the vice president said.
Robredo continued: "We cannot, and we must not, stand by and let this happen again. We must make sure that our government institutions remain uncorrupted and independent of each other, particularly when it comes to checks and balances in pursuit of accountability."
LP senators: We fear for her life and security
De Lima's Liberal Party colleagues at the Senate meanwhile said that they are worried for De Lima's safety in government custody.
"We fear for Senator Leila's life and security given what happened to Albuera Mayor [Rolando] Espinosa and Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo who were both killed in police-controlled facilities," Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan and Bam Aquino said in a joint statement.
Espinosa was killed in November while police were serving a warrant to search his cell at a Leyte provincial jail. Espinosa, father of alleged drug lord Rolan "Kerwin" Espinosa, had been in police custody over drug and firearms charges. Police said he fired at them, forcing them to shoot back.
Jee Ick-joo, meanwhile, was abducted and killed in by rogue police officers under the guise of an anti-drug operation last October. PO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, a suspect in the case, allegedly called Jee's wife to demand ransom even though the businessman had already been killed. Jee was killed in Camp Crame, the national police headquarters.