World Bulletin / News Desk
Leila de Lima, a human rights advocate and former secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), has called for foreign intervention to put an end to the “state-inspired” extrajudicial murders she says have been instigated by Duterte since he was elected to power.
Although the president denies any link, the European Union and United States have expressed alarm, while rights groups have accused the president of allowing a state of lawlessness where criminals can settle vendettas with impunity.
On Wednesday, De Lima said a claim by self-confessed drug dealer Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. that he had given her 8 million pesos ($160,350) since August 2015 was “absolutely untrue”.
“I don’t know Kerwin and neither does Ronnie," De Lima said, referring to her former driver-cum-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, who Duterte has alleged was her lover.
De Lima has dismissed a photo circulating online that appears to show her standing with the drug dealer.
"He knows that," news broadcaster ABS-CBN quoted her as saying, adding that she no longer employed Dayan at the time of the alleged turnovers.
Dayan, however, told reporters late Tuesday that he turned over money from Kerwin to De Lima five times in 2014.
Dayan is set to testify Thursday in a House of Representatives inquiry into allegations that De Lima and other former officials were involved in the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison near Manila.
The inquiry was launched after De Lima -- who as DOJ secretary supervised prison facilities -- initiated a Senate committee probe earlier this year into alleged extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s anti-drug drive.
Since July 1, more than 4,900 people have been killed in police operations and “vigilante-style killings”, according to national police data cited by Rappler.
Kerwin has been in police custody since he was extradited earlier this month from Abu Dhabi, where he was arrested after his father, mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., surrendered to police after Duterte linked him to the drug trade.
On Nov. 5, the mayor was killed in his jail cell after officers said he shot at them during a search for illegal firearms.