Image copyright EPA Image caption Hashedin is seen as close to President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s political ally and the mayor of southern Davao City, Eduardo Rama, has been arrested on charges of overseeing human trafficking, CBS News reports.
Davao city has been the scene of atrocities in the past attributed to rights groups and now to US authorities.
President Duterte has in the past faced accusations of legitimising extrajudicial killings.
Rama denies involvement in any crimes, and a member of his own party told CBS: “We believe the case against him is politically motivated.”
He is accused of supervising more than 100 sex-trafficking “guides” who gathered young girls from Davao City and sold them to paymasters across the country.
Rama was taken into police custody on Thursday and the US Department of State issued a notice to its citizens to avoid travelling to the Philippines.
This followed a federal grand jury indictment against Rama and 15 other unnamed individuals in a Los Angeles court in California, according to CBS.
The indictment alleges that the guides engaged in a “systematic pattern of forcing vulnerable girls, some as young as nine, to engage in prostitution in the Philippines, Malaysia, and other destinations”.
The investigation began in February 2017 with a tip-off from the advocacy group Human Rights Watch about human trafficking in Davao City.
At the time, Duterte had been mayor for more than two decades, overseeing one of the largest slums.
The majority of the Philippines’ high court judges are from the southern Mindanao region, where Duterte has long enjoyed support.
He is seen as sympathetic to the causes of “patriotic” Filipino militiamen against Abu Sayyaf rebels on Mindanao, and more recently, against drug traffickers.
Human rights campaigners have accused the president of a vicious record of impunity for human rights abuses and war crimes.