House inquiry on drugs dwells on De Lima affair

Posted on November 25, 2016

AFTER hiding for months, Ronnie P. Dayan -- the former aide and alleged bagman of former justice secretary and now Senator Leila M. de Lima -- faced the congressional probe for the first time and was made to recount his confessed affair with the public official, while Mr. Dayan also sought to dispute allegations of his involvement in the drug trade.

The House committee on justice, headed by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, resumed its inquiry on the illegal drugs trade at the national penitentiary, although it had already concluded this investigation in October and a committee report has been approved in the plenary.

In his opening statement, Mr. Umali lamented the failure of Ms. de Lima “to attend the hearing which shows her lack of respect to a co-equal chamber,” adding that this is inconsistent with her mandate.

Upon the recommendation of the Justice committee, House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez granted Mr. Dayan immunity from suit as far as his testimony before the House committee is concerned.

Mr. Dayan narrated that he applied as driver-bodyguard of Ms. de Lima in 2007 and became her security aide starting 2008 when she was appointed to head Commission on Human Rights and in 2010 when she became justice secretary.

In about two to three months after being hired as Ms. de Lima’s driver-bodyguard in 2007, Mr. Dayan said they were by then in a relationship -- which lasted for seven years and ended under a cloud of argument and jealousy when he learned she had a new “boyfriend,” motorcycle escort Warren Cristobal.

Prodded by lawmakers about this affair, Mr. Dayan described it as having dropped to “Signal Number 1” from “Signal Number 5.”

When asked why he turned against Ms. de Lima, he said she did not return his feelings.

Following the House probe, Mr. Dayan had his daughter Hannah Mae seek advice from Ms. de Lima, who allegedly suggested he go into hiding.

At this point, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas expressed concern this could signify obstruction of justice on Ms. de Lima’s part.

Mr. Fariñas said the committee will hold an executive session to discuss whether to cite Ms. de Lima for contempt.

Moving on to the alleged drug transactions, Mr. Dayan admitted he received money from confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” E. Espinosa, Jr. five times from August to November 2014, but maintained he was not aware that the money came from drugs, adding that he thought Mr. Espinosa was an engineer.

Their first four meetings in 2014, Mr. Dayan said, were at the Mall of Asia, where Espinosa personally handed the money allegedly for Ms. de Lima.

But in a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Espinosa claimed he gave Mr. Dayan a total of P8 million for Ms. de Lima’s senatorial campaign this year and that his first meeting with Mr. Dayan was in August 2015 at the Mall of Asia parking lot where he delivered P2 million to the security aide.

Espinosa and Mr. Dayan also differed on the frequency of their rendezvous.

Espinosa also named Albuera Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido as having introduced him to Mr. Dayan, who denied this, however, saying he didn’t know the police official.

Mr. Dayan also said he didn’t know inmates-turned-witnesses Rodolfo Magleo, Engelberto Durano, Jovencio Ablen, Renante Diaz and Herbert Colanggo, whom Mr. Dayan said he only knew by name.

The committee approved at length a motion to free Mr. Dayan free following his testimony. Mr. Dayan was previously cited for contempt for now appearing at the House inquiry.

For his part, Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre III said his department is “planning to put him [Mr. Dayan] under provisional admission under the Witness Protection Program,” as Mr. Dayan himself had sought.

At the sidelines of the House probe, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) turned over P1 million in cash to the informant of Mr. Dayan’s whereabouts before his arrest last Tuesday in La Union, Pangasinan.

The cash reward was witnessed by Messrs. Fariñas, Umali, Aguirre, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of the VACC, dispute allegations that the informant, who was present but did not speak, was a relative of Mr. Dayan.

Nakita ko yung pangalan niya, hindi doon lumalabas either Palisoc or Dayan... so I would presume he’s not related (I saw his name, there’s no Palisoc or Dayan so I would presume he’s not related),” Mr. Topacio said. -- Raynan F. Javil with Lucia Edna P. de Guzman