By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Sen. Leila De Lima on Monday night finally confirmed she had an affair with her former bodyguard/driver but maintained she had never authorized him or anybody to collect money from drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to bankroll her senatorial bid last May elections.
“I am 100 percent sure that I have never received (drug money) or allowed anybody to be my bagman,” stressed De Lima.
De Lima was referring to Ronnie Palisoc Dayan, whom President Rodrigo Duterte identified as her bagman who collected drug money in her behalf to finance her campaign expenses when she ran for senator.
In an exclusive interview with Winnie Monsod on “Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie” aired on GMA News TV, De Lima admitted that she and Dayan became close with for a few years until she broke off with him before she joined the senatorial ticket of the Liberal Party.
“We became so close. That’s it. I trusted him. Of course, I fell for him,” admitted Duterte’s staunchest critic in the Senate.
During her 57th birthday last August, De Lima revealed that one of her two wishes is to have a love life so she will have somebody to share what she has been going through. De Lima said she was in a very difficult situation because the President vowed to destroy her.
Duterte claimed that when he was still Davao City mayor, De Lima, then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), turned him into a “whipping boy” and investigated him over vigilante killings in the city. She had also initiated Senate investigation on extra-judicial killings over Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs.
Responding to the question why she fell in love with Dayan considering his status in life, De Lima said it’s part of the “frailties of a woman.” She said her relationship with Dayan lasted for a “few years,” the same time when he has long been separated from his wife.
Amid rumors of carrying an “illicit affair” with Dayan which reportedly started when she was still CHR chairperson, De Lima has opted to remain silent about it.
De Lima had never denied nor confirmed that Dayan was a former lover. She never spoke about their romances although in one interview, the neophyte senator disclosed she and Dayan had been “very close.”
Dayan was also with De Lima when she was justice secretary after her stint at the CHR.
While she declined on several occasions to speak about her love life, which had been dragged into the House inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary when she was justice secretary, De Lima conceded Dayan getting drug money using her name without her permission is “within the realm of possibilities.”
But De Lima said if it was indeed true, she could have noticed it.
Since the controversy erupted, Dayan has not been seen in his residence in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan, which was rumored to be built from funds given by De Lima and from drug money.
In defending Dayan, De Lima said he could have built his Urbiztondo house with the help of a sister whose husband works abroad. But she also gave small amounts to Dayan to help him.
The anti-crime group Volunteer Against Crimes and Corruption had put up a PHP 1 million reward for any information on the whereabouts of Dayan.
When sought in the Senate Tuesday morning regarding her admission on national TV about her former affair with Dayan, De Lima insisted it was a private matter and that she was never “comfortable” discussing it in public.
“This is all I can say, my answer is simple and I don’t want to answer it because I really don’t feel right engaging publicly about private matters,” she said.
She debunked the remark of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that her admission about her affair with Dayan could boost the cases against her. She said it was just Aguirre’s opinion.
Aguirre said the admission can bolster the drug charges filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against De Lima over the illicit drug trade in Bilibid. He said her revelation could help the case build-up against her.
Furthermore, Aguirre said De Lima can no longer use her usual defense that the government fabricated lies against her.
But De Lima said, “My track record as a public official, first as Commission on Human Rights Chair and next as Secretary of Justice, speaks for itself. My record and my reputation have been untarnished until now because of all these unjust, unfair and false allegations and fabricated lies against my alleged involvement in the drug trade. I have made my peace with my past and my family. I don’t know if my primary attacker can say the same.”
De Lima said her mission right now is to stop the extra-judicial killings and other social issues.
She said she is even more determined in pursuing this goal despite the danger to her life and reputation.