MANILA • Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, the target of verbal assaults from President Rodrigo Duterte, says she wonders why "the vilest man in the country" seems attracted to her.
"Ano pong gusto n'yo sa akin? May gusto po ba kayo sa akin? (What do you want from me? Do you want something from me?)" Ms de Lima said in Tagalog as she spoke to reporters on her way to the Senate on Monday.
"I cannot resist asking the President, 'What do you see in me that you find so sexual? Why is your mind so fixated on my sexual aspect?' You are so obsessed with me. Why?" she added in a statement on Monday night, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported yesterday.
Since he took office on June 30, the President has attacked Ms de Lima, calling her an "immoral" woman for allegedly having a relationship with her married bodyguard who, in turn, Mr Duterte claimed, was accepting money for his boss from drug lords.
The senator said she pitied Mr Duterte after she heard his latest tirade about her alleged links with drug convicts at New Bilibid Prison (NBP). "May God forgive him for what he is doing," she told reporters when asked to comment on the President's statement on Monday that she would be jailed for protecting drug lords. "He's now the lowest and the vilest man in the country for his rudeness."
She also pleaded for the President to stop his tirades against her.
The Inquirer reported that Mr Duterte had on Monday apparently referred to a purported video of Ms de Lima, then Justice Secretary, when she was alone with a drug convict in his cell at NBP. He said: "Every time I watch the video, I lose my appetite. Only people who will fall for her are… I am not a guard or a motorcycle cop or convict."
In her statement, Ms de Lima said the President's "foul mouth had again desecrated the hallowed grounds of Malacanang", referring to the presidential residence.
She denied Mr Duterte's repeated accusations over her alleged drug links.
The attacks against Ms de Lima were stepped up as she, as chair of the Senate justice and human rights committee, launched an inquiry into extrajudicial killings of suspects in the administration's war on drugs. More than 3,000 drug suspects and dealers have so far been killed in the campaign against illegal drugs.