The Challengers

Leila de Lima


For standing up to an extremist leader.

Leila de Lima

Since taking office in June, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a brutal war on drugs. Thousands of alleged traffickers, dealers, and users have been executed by state forces or pro-government vigilantes. In response, Sen. Leila de Lima has been a steadfast advocate for the rule of law. As the chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, she spearheaded an investigation into the extrajudicial killings—work that landed her firmly in Duterte’s crosshairs. The president’s loyalists accused de Lima of being involved in the drug trade and ousted her as head of the investigation in September. That didn’t silence her, though. She called on the United Nations to examine the violence, arguing that Manila isn’t equipped “to serve complete justice to the victims.” (Photo credit: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

After the criminal accusations, de Lima said, “I am willing to resign; I am willing to be shot in front of the president…. I am confident to prove him wrong. I will stand by my innocence, any time now and forever.”

In an apparent effort to discredit de Lima, opponents have accused her of taking bribes from drug dealers in a federal prison to bankroll campaign expenses.