MANILA -- The Philippine senate on Monday night stripped President Rodrigo Duterte's most vocal critic of the power to lead an investigation on the spate of extrajudicial killings in the government's clampdown on illegal drugs.
In a rare move, the senate, controlled by Duterte's allies, expelled Sen. Leila de Lima as the chairperson of the committee on justice and human rights, which is spearheading a probe on the deaths tied with Duterte's controversial war on drugs, where over 3,000 people linked with narcotic trade have been killed by either police or vigilantes.
De Lima, a former justice secretary and head of the Commission on Human Rights, has earned the ire of Duterte for mounting the probe. De Lima's ouster means she can no longer control the senate hearing on the issue. Sen. Richard Gordon was elected to replace de Lima.
Speaking to ABS-CBN news, de Lima condemned what she called the "tyranny of the majority." "Whether or not what was done to me was fair and just, then let the people decide on that," she added.
De Lima's ouster follows a privilege speech of Sen. Alan Cayetano, who slammed her and the foreign media for destroying the president's and the country's reputation.
Last Thursday, de Lima invited a gunman to testify about killings in Davao City, where Duterte was mayor and a congressman for two decades. Edgar Matobato, who claims to be a member of the so-called "Davao Death Squad," a vigilante group, said Duterte masterminded the killings of crime suspects, his political opponents' guards, a journalist and others.
Matobato was earlier scheduled to testify again on Tuesday, but his appearance was blocked by Duterte's allies in the senate, including Senate President Koko Pimentel, who said Matobato's testimony was irrelevant to the probe.
Duterte won the May 9 election on the promise of eradicating crime and illegal drug use. His "relentless" war on drugs, launched when he took power on June 30, is widely popular at home despite criticisms from international human rights advocates.
Meanwhile, a congressional committee at the House of Representatives, also controlled by Duterte, will launch an inquiry on Tuesday, and will try to establish de Lima's ties with drug lords, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said Monday.