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De Lima: Shoot me if it’s true

Sen. Leila de Lima holds a press conference at Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City yesterday. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - Fearing that he would be forced to testify against her, Sen. Leila de Lima’s former driver-bodyguard has gone into hiding, she told reporters yesterday.

She also dared President Duterte to have her shot in front of him if he can find real and “not manufactured” evidence of her alleged links to illegal drugs.

In a press briefing, De Lima admitted she and her former driver Ronnie Palisoc Dayan had been “close” but declined to confirm if they had been lovers as claimed by President Duterte in a speech before police officers and personnel last Wednesday.

The President said De Lima’s former driver and alleged lover – whom he did not name – collected money for her from convicted drug lords at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

He said instead of filing a case against De Lima’s driver, the government would use him to testify against the senator.

De Lima said she and Dayan had been in communication until some three or four weeks ago. She said Dayan called her recently to ask for help, as unidentified people were reportedly following his movements.

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The senator said Dayan was clearly scared and agitated when he called. Dayan told her he had information from some police-friends that people were looking for him and that they intend to raid his house and possibly kill him and make it appear he was armed and resisting arrest.

De Lima said people had told him he would be taken into custody and forced to testify against her.

She added Dayan could not even find refuge for his family.

In the press briefing, De Lima reiterated her appeal to Duterte to spare her family, friends and loved ones, as well as Dayan’s family, from the President’s vicious campaign against illegal drugs.

Even before the President came out with his claims against her, De Lima said she had already been informed about efforts to link her to illegal drugs as early as the week after the May 9 elections.

Citing credible sources, De Lima said she was told people were going around the NBP looking for inmates willing to testify against her using fabricated evidence.

“They were trying to access certain convicts na ang pakay ay ituro ako, na ako ay isang coddler, ako ay isang protector, na ako ay nakikinabang sa droga nila, tinulungan sa eleksyon through campaign funds (They were trying to access certain convicts, the objective of which is to identify me as a coddler, protector and beneficiary of their drug trade and that they helped me during the elections with campaign funds),” De Lima said.

At the time, she already had information that Dayan would be implicated as her bagman.

“I was told then not to worry because there were no takers. But I would not be surprised if at this point they have someone who would say these things. Perjured witnesses who are possibly convicts,” De Lima said.

She said the same informants told her that this was just the beginning and that some of her former colleagues and subordinates were also being convinced to pin her down on drugs.

“The information was that they are digging through the lives of some people they know are close to me, either on a personal or professional level,” De Lima said.

“Like Ronnie, former usecs (undersecretaries) or heads of attached agencies of the Department of Justice who are perceived to be close to me. Whether or not they are really close to me is another matter,” she added.

 The plan, according to De Lima, is that whatever dirt they dig up would be linked to her.

But the senator said she is confident that whatever is presented by the President against her regarding illegal drugs would not hold water. 

“I’m willing to resign. I’m willing to be shot in front of the President kung may tunay – I just have to qualify, tunay, totoo na ebidensya. Hindi coerced, hindi manufactured, hindi fabricated, hindi imbento (real, true evidence, not manufactured, not fabricated, not invented),” De Lima said.

She also advised the President to carefully vet whatever evidence is presented to him lest this would blow up in his face.

“My unsolicited advice (to the President) is that whoever is supplying the information or the so-called evidence linking me to drugs, confront them now and force them to tell you the truth because this will hurt you,” she said.

“Maybe not now, in the very near future but there will come a time na talagang ganyan ang lalabas na walang katotohanan yan (it will turn out to be untrue). I’m telling you, Mr. President, ayaw ko mapahiya kayo (I don’t want to see you shamed),” she added.

Just close friends

She also emphasized during her press briefing that she and Dayan were close and that to her knowledge he had been estranged from his family when he became her driver before her stint in the government – first as chairman of the Commission on Human Rights during the Arroyo administration.

De Lima declined to provide more details about Dayan, saying she just wanted to bring out as much information as she could about the drug issues being raised against her by the President so that there won’t be any distraction when the Senate committee on justice and human rights which she heads starts its inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial or summary killings of suspected drug pushers under the Duterte administration.

Last Friday, De Lima said that there were “snippets of facts and truth” in Duterte’s tirades against her but that his tagging her as recipient of drug money was “an absolute lie.”

The President, in a televised speech, called De Lima immoral for having a relationship with her driver.   

“We became close but as to how close, I am sorry but I don’t want to touch on that because that is something personal,” De Lima said, adding Dayan resigned when she was still justice secretary.

“Ronnie has a family. He has children although from what I know, he was already separated even before he became my driver/bodyguard. His family is hurting. He has children who are girls,” De Lima said.

She said she is also bothered by reports on the existence of a sex video of her and an unidentified man. 

De Lima said she has not seen the video and was only told by her staff the woman in the video was not her.

What was circulating appeared to be only stills of an apparent video of a man and a woman resembling De Lima. “I never looked at that video, it’s so filthy. It obviously wasn’t me there,” she said.

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