MANILA (Updated) -- Senator Leila de Lima, who is facing drug-related charges, was turned over Friday morning by the Senate security to the arresting officers.
An emotional De Lima stepped out of her office around 8:05 a.m. and voluntarily submitted herself to the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
She was escorted by Senate Sergeant-at-arms Jose Balajadia.
On Thursday night, the Senate Sergeant-at-arms and the PNP-CIDG agreed on De Lima's arrest Friday morning after the senator requested authorities to allow her to be with her family.
De Lima, who stayed in her Senate office since Thursday night after a Muntinlupa City court issued her arrest warrant, said she will continue her fight despite the questionable arrest order issued against her.
"Sasama po ako sa kanila voluntarily. Nananalig po ako na malalagpasan ko to. Lalabas po ang katotohanan," De Lima told reporters.
Despite her arrest, the former Justice secretary maintained her innocence, insisting that the cases filed against were nothing but harassment by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Inosente po ako. Wala pong katotohanan na protector ako ng illegal drugs. Hindi po totoo na nakinabang ako sa illegal drugs. Pawang kasinungalingan po ang ibinibentang nila sa akin. Kung sasabihin po nila na mapapatahimik po nila ako sa paraan ng pangigipit o paniniil, nagkakamali po sila. Karangalan ko po na ako ay makulong dahil sa mga ipinaglalaban ko," De Lima said.
"I pray that God will give me justice," De Lima said before she finally submitted herself to the arresting team.
She admitted that she was surprised with the hasty issuance of the arrest order as the court has a scheduled hearing on her camp's motion to quash.
Lawyer Alex Padilla, the senator's legal counsel, said in an interview that he cannot imagine how the court was able to come up immediately with such an order considering that Judge Juanita Guerrero of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 204 just arrived from abroad.
Guerrero said the court found sufficient probable cause for the issuance of the arrest warrants.
De Lima was charged before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, specifically sale and trading of illegal drugs, criminal liability of government officials and employees.
The cases were based on the complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and anti-crime watchdog group Volunteers against Crime and Corruption using testimonies given by inmate of the National Bilibid Prison during a hearing at the House of Representatives on the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary during De Lima’s term as justice secretary of the Aquino administration.
Two other judges handling the drug cases against De Lima at the Muntinlupa RTC — Amelia Fabros-Corpuz of Branch 205, and Judge Patria Manalastas-de Leon of Branch 206 — have yet to issue an arrest warrant.
Aside from De Lima, the subject of the warrant issued by Judge Guerrero of the Muntinlupa RTC were Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former driver-bodyguard, and Rafael Ragos, former office-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections.
Dayan is now under the CIDG custody after he was arrested by the Urbiztondo police in Pangasinan last Thursday night. He was transported to Muntinlupa on Friday morning for the return of the arrest warrant.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, former Department and Social Welfare secretary Dinky Soliman and singer Leah Navarro expressed strong support to De Lima.
De Lima's media officer Ferdie Maglalang said the beleaguered senator had her breakfast with her staff before she stepped out of her room.
She asked her staff to be brave and to take care of her 13 dogs "whatever happens to her."
Maglalang said De Lima expressed her fears of becoming a victim of extrajudicial killings, which has victimized over 7,000 people in the country so far.
De Lima brought two pillows, a big basket full of books, paperwork, and a rosary on her way to the jail, her staff said.
Maglalang confirmed that former President Benigno Aquino III called up De Lima before she voluntarily submitted herself to the arresting officers.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, meanwhile, said De Lima can still function as senator being elected by the people.
Pimentel said she is still entitled to keep her office in the Senate and is still recognized as an official member of the chamber.
De Lima was brought to the PNP-CIDG headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, for the booking procedure. She arrived there at 8:40 a.m.
Earlier, the PNP said it has prepared a room for De Lima at its custodial center following the order of PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa who offered the said facility to the senator to assure her safety.
Dela Rosa said De Lima might share space with detained former senators Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. who were facing plunder charges in connection with their alleged involvement in pork barrel scam.
The Liberal Party, for its part, reiterated its condemnation of the political persecution of the "brave administration critic," De Lima.
In a statement, LP said the Sandiganbayan, and not the Muntinlupa RTC, has jurisdiction over the case as the alleged wrongdoings were supposedly committed when De Lima was Justice secretary.
"Ang balita namin, kararating lang ng Macau nitong judge. Ang alam namin makapal ang motion to quash na finile sa kanyang korte. Basahin naman niya ang motion. The haste is deplorable. We fear for Senator Leila’s life and security given what happened to Albuera Mayor Espinosa and Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, who were both killed inside police-controlled facilities," the LP statement said.
LP condemned the arrest as purely political vendetta and has no place in justice system that upholds the rule of law.
"We reiterate that an arrest based on trumped-up charges is illegal. We assert that the Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction over cases against public officers cognizable by the Sandiganbayan. Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which is the DOJ's case against Sen. De Lima, falls under "other offenses committed by public officials" listed in the Sandiganbayan Law," the statement added.
The arrest is a clear violation of legal proceedings and is therefore a violation of her constitutional rights to due process, the statement said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, another LP member, said it was not De Lima who surrendered Friday morning, but the country's democracy.
She said the charges against De Lima are baseless and smacks of "outright political persecution and a travesty of the country’s justice system."
"Hindi si Senator De Lima ang sinuko ngayon kundi ang demokrasya. Sinuko ng gobyerno ang demokrasya ng bayan. Laway lang ang puhunan, pwede ka nang kasuhan at ipakulong ng gobyerno," she said.
"It is a throwback to an authoritarian past. It highlights the slow death of our democracy and rule of law," she said.
Senator Pangilinan, also an LP member, was fuming mad after he was refused entry inside at the Camp Crame Boni Serrano entrance gate by PNP personnel. Pangilinan said it was his constitutional right to enter the premises. (SunStar Philippines)