THE Palace on Monday urged the driver-bodyguard of Senator Leila de Lima to come out in the open and prove he was not a bagman for the senator who collected drug money for her successful Senate campaign.
“No one is excused. If the President sees there is evidence that links you or your alleged ex-lover to drug syndicates, then nobody is excused,” said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar in an ANC TV interview.
On Saturday, De Lima pleaded with the Duterte administration for the life of her former bodyguard and driver, Ronnie Dayan, who is said to be the subject of a manhunt.
“I hope you don’t touch him,” De Lima said in a news conference.
“I hope you don’t arrest him. You can only arrest him if you have a warrant of arrest. But if you don’t have a warrant of arrest, please leave him alone,” she added.
In an early Sunday morning speech, however, the President said that he needed to pin down the links between the senator and her driver-bodyguard to the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.
“Now if I do not mention the connect between the senator, who was then a secretary of Justice and her driver, how would you now explain [why] these things happened, the partying, drugs and even cooking shabu, went unbridled, unhampered because of the driver?”
“Were it not for that authority, these cellphones and everything else, the guns, would not have happened,” Duterte said.
In her press briefing, De Lima admitted that Dayan was indeed her long-time “driver-bodyguard” even before entering government, but said nothing about her alleged affair with him.
“The Ronnie Dayan that they are saying, he was really my driver-bodyguard even before I was a private practitioner, before I entered government,” De Lima told reporters at a press briefing Saturday.
Andanar also defended the President against accusations of having a double standard, one for women and one for men, when it came to adultery.
He said the President had affairs while he was single.
Andanar also said the President intends to use Dayan as a witness to prove De Lima’s links to illegal drugs.
De Lima on Monday remained silent on the possibility that Dayan would be used as a witness against her.
“I would not be answering those questions at this point,” said De Lima in an interview over CNN Philippines hours before she presided over the Senate committee on justice and human rights hearing to look into the alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects during the police anti-drug operations.
“What I can say at this point by way of reiteration is that I’m not in anyway connected, linked to or involved in drugs. That’s all I need to assert,” said De Lima.
Duterte has divulged De Lima’s connection to illegal drugs and tagged his former driver Ronnie Palisoc Dayan as her collector of drug money from drug lords detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
He also called the former justice secretary “an immoral woman” for having an illicit love affair with Dayan who is married.
The President also said De Lima’s relationship with the driver “gave rise to the corruption that was happening inside the national penitentiary.”
But De Lima repeatedly professed her innocence, saying she would stand by it up to her last breath.
In refusing to answer questions on Dayan, De Lima said she would not want to touch on that.
“I’m sorry, I’d rather that we focus on the inquiry because precisely in the last few days, perhaps wittingly or unwittingly, some elements have been trying to distract or divert the real issue at hand,” said De Lima, referring to the spate of extrajudicial killings since Duterte took office.
She also branded as “squid” tactics insinuations that linked her to the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Janet Lim-Napoles.
“I’d like to think that’s another diversionary tactic being employed in an effort to possibly block or delay the Senate inquiry,” said De Lima.
“I flatly, vehemently, categorically deny any irregularity on my part in any of the matters affecting the Napoles and the PDAF case,” De Lima said.
House leaders on Monday said they will not compel De Lima to attend their probe of the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison during her tenure as Justice secretary.
Reps. Karlo Nograles of Davao City, Deputy Speakers Raneo Abu of Batangas, Gwen Garcia of Cebu City and Sharon Garin also said that the probe is not intended to harass De Lima, but at drafting a law to address the illegal drug trade inside the NBP.
Nograles suggested, however, that De Lima could voluntarily attend the hearing as a resource person. With Maricel V. Cruz
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by The Standard. Comments are views by thestandard.ph readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of thestandard.ph. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with The Standard editorial standards, The Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.