Leila de Lima
Former Justice Secretary and current senator Leila De Lima shows reporters an article published in a local newspaper during a news conference at the Senate headquarters in Pasay city, metro Manila on 22 September 2016 - file photo Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Philippines Senator Leila de Lima on Monday, 7 November, filed a "test case" against President Rodrigo Duterte before the Supreme Court seeking to keep at bay what she calls harassment by the president.

Lima said she had filed a 26-page petition for writ of "habeas data" against Duterte to protect her privacy. "This is a test case, a novel case of transcendental importance. Habeas data is rarely invoked. We are testing the doctrine of presidential immunity," Rappler reported her as saying.

In the petition, the senator said she wanted to prevent Duterte and his representatives from collecting information about her private life that is beyond the realm of legitimate public concern. She also wants the court to stop Duterte from making public statements that malign her as a woman and degrade her dignity as a human being.

Duterte has attacked the senator verbally almost on a daily basis, during which he accused her of sexual impropriety. She is also accused of having close connections to drug dealers operating in prisons while she was a minister in the previous government for six years.

In September, she was removed as the chairperson of the committee on justice and human rights, which was investigating hundreds of extrajudicial killings during Duterte's war on drugs. After she was ousted, she became the subject of an investigation by congress. The investigation heard accusations that 70% of the Philippines drug deals took place in a prison that was under her control.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told Reuters that Lima was playing her "gender card" and this move was strategic to "generate media noise to drown out the accusations against her".

"By portraying herself as a victim, she seeks to distance herself from the intimate relationships which were also intertwined with drug trafficking."