By Jeoffrey Maitem
A Philippine court issued an arrest order against a Chinese-Filipino businessman alleged to be a drug trafficker who hosted a party for President Rodrigo Duterte when following his election victory two years ago.
The Makati City Regional Trial Court set the arraignment later this month against Peter Lim, who is based in the central city of Cebu, for violating the country’s drugs law, a non-bailable offense.
The arrest order is unusual in the Philippines, where a majority of the more than 4,500 people killed by police in Duterte’s drug war were mainly poor Filipinos. In contrast, Lim has enough connections that he was allowed a personal visit to Duterte to explain the allegations.
“You are directed to execute this warrant without necessary delay to arrest the said accused to deliver him to the nearest jail or police station,” the court said in the arrest order sent to the Cebu city police on Tuesday, but made public the following day.
Police have 10 days to implement the arrest order and present Lim before the court. If they fail to arrest him within the given time, officers would have to report to the court “stating the reasons for such failure.”
In Manila, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he could tap the National Bureau of Investigation, the department’s law enforcement arm, to carry out the arrest.
“The issuance of the warrant means that the judge has also found probable cause against the accused,” he said. “If police fail to find the accused, I will direct the NBI to assist.”
The development shows that Duterte was serious in his drug war, his spokesman, Harry Roque said.
“Big fish or small, our war against drugs spares no one. It is a war that drug smugglers and traffickers are bound to lose,” Roque said.
Duterte has carried a list containing the names of politicians, judges, police and military officers who were allegedly involved in the drug trade. He never explained how he got the list, but at least three mayors whose names appeared on it had been gunned down, including one who died in a shootout in jail.
Lim was a suspected high-profile drug lord named by Duterte, but managed a meeting with the president in 2016 where he was given only a stern warning.
In addition, both men acted as co-sponsors at a lavish wedding in Cebu in June 2016.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.