March 2, 2017 7:41 AM EST

On the morning of Feb. 24, Philippine Senator Leila de Lima–one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most outspoken critics–was arrested in Manila on charges of drug trafficking. Her arrest, which she and her supporters said was an act of political retribution, sparked outrage in the Philippines:


De Lima, elected to the Senate last year after serving for five years as the country’s Justice Secretary, has led a months-long, largely political fight against Duterte and his so-called war on drugs, a bloody crackdown on alleged dealers and users by police and vigilante groups that has so far left more than 7,000 dead. Her Senate inquiry into the extrajudicial killings failed to bring them to an end, but her campaign has brought the crisis international attention.


In August, the President publicly accused de Lima of profiting from a drug ring at a Manila prison (and also of having an affair with her driver). De Lima fiercely denies wrongdoing. “This is undoubtedly political persecution,” she told TIME in her jail cell on Feb. 25. “What has been done to me sends a chilling effect on other voices of dissent.”


What happens next to de Lima is an open question. Her legal team is attempting to prove that her arrest was unlawful, but she is up against a system many now see as corrupt, and she can’t count on a lot of popular support: the President clocked an 83% approval rating in January. “He believes in Filipinos,” Isabelle Santiago, 50, said at a pro-Duterte rally in Manila on Feb. 25. “And de Lima–now she’s in trouble.”


This appears in the March 13, 2017 issue of TIME.

Contact us at

Read More From TIME

Related Stories