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Unrepentant Duterte says De Lima 'created the scandal'

In this Aug. 17, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at a press briefing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City. PPD/Toto Lozano

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will not backpedal on his accusations against Sen. Leila de Lima despite her plea to spare her colleagues, friends and family from the issue.

Duterte blamed De Lima on Thursday for the "scandal" that may affect her loved ones and defending his move to call her out in public for her alleged infidelity with her married driver.

"Family?... She created the scandal. She knows that she is a public official. Nag-iskandalo na siya d'yan sa (Commission on) Human Rights, nag-iskandalo na siya d'yan sa Department of Justice. Ano'ng spare the family?" Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao.

The president was referring to De Lima's previous posts as chairperson of the human rights body and as Justice secretary. He suggested that even staff members of the two agencies are aware of the scandal.

"'Pag ka-nasa public office ka, De Lima, your life is an open book," Duterte said.

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On Wednesday, Duterte lambasted De Lima for allegedly receiving drug money through her driver for her campaign to become senator.

The senator on Friday, however, denied that she has links to the illegal drug market and has benefited from it.

"Pero ilang beses ko na po 'yan dineny. So I'm denying it again, that's an absolute lie. That's completely false. I will never do that because I have never betrayed my oath as a public servant," De Lima told reporters as captured by a video on social media.

De Lima has cried foul over what she described as character assassination. She also admitted she could not defeat the president, who has immunity from suit, but she would not allow a letup in the investigations into drug-related killings during his administration.

She asked the president's camp, however, not to go after her own kin and colleagues.

"If you are bent on destroying me, please have the decency to spare my colleagues, friends, and family. Wala po silang kasalanan sa inyo," De Lima said.

Duterte, for his part, does not think he went overboard in accusing De Lima, claiming he has evidence against her.

"Kasi totoo. Kasi totoo nahuli siya. Imagine being (exposed) to the public taking in your driver as your paramour?" Duterte said.

Duterte's tirades came after De Lima ordered a Senate inquiry into a series of extrajudicial killings related to the Duterte government's war on drugs. — Camille Diola

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