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Politics

Manila court issues warrant for arrest of top Duterte critic

Leila de Lima faces investigation over sources of election funding

MANILA -- A Philippine court ordered the arrest on Thursday of Leila de Lima, the senator and outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte who branded him a "sociopathic killer".

A Metro Manila regional trial court said there is probable cause to arrest de Lima for allegedly violating the country's drug laws. The justice department, citing testimonies of drug convicts and former aides, accused de Lima of receiving drug money to fund her senate campaign in 2016.

De Lima had on Tuesday dismissed the charges as a politically motivated attempt to intimidate Duterte's critics, cover-up government blunders, and divert attention from his war on illegal drugs.

"The court came up with a decision based on nothing," de Lima's lawyer, Alexander Padilla, said on Thursday.

In August, soon after taking office, the firebrand Philippine president vowed to destroy de Lima for criticizing his war on drugs. The bloody crackdown on users and peddlers has led to over 7,000 deaths, most of which were extrajudicial killings.

After being elected to the senate in May 2016, de Lima chaired its committee on justice, and launched a congressional investigation into the rise of drug-related killings. Duterte's allies in the senate, however, unseated her in September after a self-confessed assassin came forth to claim the president was linked to extrajudicial killings in Davao while he was mayor.

Previously, de Lima also probed Duterte's connection to Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group that targeted petty criminals and drug offenders when she chaired the human rights commission from 2008 to 2010 and was justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.

Her efforts all failed after witnesses backed away from testifying against the then mayor.

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