Palace says De Lima can 'rest her fears' about safety

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima has nothing to fear while in detention at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, Malacañang assured President Rodrigo Duterte's fiercest critic on Friday, February 24.

"I think she should put herself at rest," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

He said the administration respects De Lima's right to due process and safety.

"You know, these things follow due process and we do respect the right of everyone," he said.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has vowed to ensure the safety of the senator, who has been butting heads with Duterte since she investigated the Davao Death Squad when she headed the Commission on Human Rights under the Arroyo administration.

Abella downplayed threats to De Lima's life while in police custody.

"I don’t see any reason why anybody should take such, you know, take such a risk of doing something like that, you know, trying to attempt at her life," said the President's spokesman.

Before her arrest, De Lima asked the public to pray for her safety while in detention.

She had said the threat was real given the deaths of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr in a Leyte jail and of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in Camp Crame. 

"Sa inyo pong lahat, humihiling po ako ng dasal na sana maging safe and secure po ako saan man ako dalhin, saan man ako ikukulong (To all of you, I ask for your prayers that I be safe and secure wherever they will detain me)," De Lima said on Thursday night.

She reiterated her call on Friday, hours before her detention in Camp Crame. (READ: FULL STATEMENT: Leila de Lima on her arrest)

Duterte himself has not issued a statement about De Lima's arrest. But the Palace said the order to arrest the senator on drug charges was a "major step forward" in the administration's campaign against illegal drugs.

It was Duterte who first publicly accused De Lima of accepting money from drug traffickers incarcerated in the New Bilibid Prison while she was still Justice Secretary. (READ: TIMELINE: De Lima – From drug probe to arrest) – Pia Ranada /