POLICE on Tuesday arrested the former lover and alleged bagman of Senator Leila de Lima, Ronnie Dayan, who admitted collecting money from drug lords detained at the New Bilibid Prison to raise funds for De Lima’s senatorial campaign.
“I received money from Kerwin (Espinosa) for senadora,” Dayan said when asked by reporters at the House of Representatives whether or not he acted as De Lima’s bagman.
Dayan said he would tell Congress what he knows when it resumes its investigation into the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP.
Dayan was arrested by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and La Union and Pangasinan police at a farm in the coastal town of San Juan in La Union at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Dayan was presented to the media in Camp Crame, where he admitted having an affair with De Lima for seven years, which ended in 2014, two months before De Lima ran for senator in 2016.
“I had a relations with De Lima for seven years but it ended and I lost contact with her in 2014. I was able to talk to her after the elections,” Dayan said.
Barely seven days before Dayan’s arrest, De Lima admitted on national TV of having a romance with her former driver and bodyguard when she was Justice secretary in the Aquino administration.
Dayan also denied knowing Kerwin Espinosa, tagged as one of Eastern Visayas’ biggest drug dealers.
Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said they have not pressured Dayan into divulging what he knows before Congress this week, nor has he had time to prepare an affidavit.
Earlier, Congress approved Dayan’s arrest for his failure to appear at its hearings. He is being turned over to the congressional sergeant-at-arms, retired Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, who will take custody of him.
Dela Rosa said policemen arrested Dayan, contrary to reports that Dayan had surrendered.
Dayan said he hid from the police for almost a month in the hinterlands of La Union, and negotiated 15 kilometers of rugged terrain in an attempt to elude them.
Chief Supt. Gregorio Pimentel said Dayan’s arrest came after one-and-a-half months of intelligence monitoring.
“He stayed in the nipa hut of his son Jomar together with his live-in partner in Sitio Bato. When he was monitored and sighted there on Nov. 17, we immediately exerted efforts to locate him,” Pimentel said.
“Upon receipt of the information of Dayan’s whereabouts, we scoured the ridges of Sito Bato until we cornered him,” he added.
Dayan had fled his residence in Urbizrondo, Pangasinan, after President Rodrigo Duterte tagged him as De Lima’s lover and alleged link to convicted drug lords at the NBP.
Dayan said he wanted to surrender when authorities launched massive manhunt against him, but he decided not to yield for fear of his safety.
Dayan underwent initial investigation at the PPPO and was transported to Camp Crame.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, which has filed a complaint against De Lima, had earlier offered P1 million for information on Dayan’s whereabouts.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday said the Justice department would consider Dayan as a state witness against De Lima.
Aguirre made the statement even as he encouraged Dayan to tell the truth about what he knows about the drug transactions inside the national penitentiary.
During the congressional hearing, high profile inmates testified that Dayan was De Lima’s bagman. He allegedly collected millions from the inmates to bankroll De Lima’s senatorial campaign.
“It is a chance for Mr. Dayan to clear his name so we encourage him to tell the whole truth of what he knows,” Aguirre said.
According to him, Dayan will be admitted to the government’s Witness Protection Program if he decides to spill the beans on De Lima.
He said Dayan is also the key to tie up loose ends in the NBP drug transactions, complaints of which have been filed before the DoJ.
Dayan is one of the respondents in the three complaints pending before the DoJ.
The DoJ’s five-man panel of prosecutors will hold its first preliminary investigation hearing December 2.
Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed news of Dayan’s arrest.
“We hope that Mr Dayan’s arrest would lead to the uncovering of truth in the proliferation of drugs in Bilibid and for the guilty to be punished,” Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said in a statement Tuesday.
“We owe this to the future generation of Fillipinos to have a drug-free society,” she added.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday said the House of Representatives will ensure the safety of Dayan as soon as the latter is kept under its custody.
Alvarez also said he would have wanted the House justice panel to reopen its probe today (Wednesday). But everything remains to be seen, Alvarez said.
The House committee on justice hopes to compel Dayan to testify about his role in the illegal drug trade in the NBP.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House justice committee, said the House will detain him until he is able to shed light on the issue.
“We will detain him until he answers all of the queries of the members of the House and the members are satisfied with his answers,” Umali said, adding that while in detention, he will not be allowed to have access to any communication device.
Umali said the panel wants Dayan to answer its questions truthfully.
“We are not in the business of coercing people to make them respond in the way we want them to respond,” he said.
“They have Constitutional right, we will afford him counsel and allow him his right against self-incrimination,” Umali said.
Umali also said they will also re-invite De Lima to attend the House probe.
“Now that Dayan has been arrested and she has fears that Dayan may be forced to say something else, then she can always come and defend herself,” Umali said.
House Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said he supports the call to reopen the NBP drug probe. With John Paolo Bencito
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