By Macon Araneta
Eastern Visayas’ number one drug lord Kerwin Espinosa on November 23 testified that he gave a total of PHP 8 million for the campaign funds of Sen. Leila De Lima through her driver/bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.
Appearing during the second day of the Senate public order and illegal drugs hearing chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Espinosa testified that he was able to comply with the demand made by Dayan that he complete the total amout before the May elections.
In response to the question by Supt. Enrico Rigor of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-illegal Drugs Group if he was able to complete the PHP 8 million campaign funds asked by Dayan, Espinosa replied: “Yes.”
Dayan was earlier named by President Rodrigo Duterte as the “bagman” of De Lima who collected payoffs from drug lords for her senatorial run.
Espinosa said he was diving in Anilao, Batangas, when he talked to Dayan for the first time over the phone. He remembered Insp. Jovie Espenido, police chief of Albuera, Leyte, called him up and told him that De Lima’s driver/bodyguard wanted to talk to him.
“When I asked him what are we going to talk about, he (Espenido) told me that I just talked to the driver/bodyguard,” said Espinosa.
After a lapse of three hours, Espinosa said a man who introduced himself as the driver/bodyguard of De Lima called his cellphone.
Espinosa said the man told him he was instructed by De Lima to relay to him that he needs funds for the 2016 elections. He then told the man he will talk about it because they (who were involved in illegal activities) just don’t enter into talks especially with the government.
To ensure that he would be doing the right thing, Espinosa said he called up a certain ‘Jacquar’ and Peter Co. The latter is a convicted drug lord currently detained at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP), and confirmed with them if they will be protected by De Lima.
Jacquar, who was shot dead in Las Pinas City during a drug operation sometime in August, told him, ‘That’s true, pare.”
He recalled Co telling him, ” Ok, pare, there’s no problem with them but we should do this discreetly.” So when De Lima’s driver/bodyguard called him two days after the first call, they met personally and that started the negotiations.
During that second meeting, Espinosa said it was the first time De Lima’s driver/bodyguard gave his name as Ronnie. He then asked for a PHP 2 million monthly payoff but he declined, saying he can’t raise the said amount. He said they haggled to lower the amount until they agreed to PHP 700,000 on the condition that she give an initial amount of PHP 2 million.
Two days later, Espinosa said he gave PHP 2 million to Dayan while they were at the fifth floor of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) parking building in Pasay City.
He said the amount was wrapped in plastic and paper bags. He handed the money to Dayan who was then driving a black Fortuner. He did not notice whether Dayan was accompanied by somebody.
On October 15, 2015, Kerwin met again with Dayan, who went to the meeting alone, to hand him bundles of cash worth PHP 1.7 million.
Espinosa said he also met De Lima at Burnham Park in Baguio Ciry just to be sure that Dayan was not lying in demanding pay-offs from him. He gave Dayan the total amount of PHP 8 million in installments.
After Espinosa’s testimony, based on his judicial affidavit, De Lima was afforded the opportunity to question Espinosa but declined. She categorically, firmly and absolutely denied knowing Espinosa or receiving money from him.
As a final message to Espinosa, De Lima asked that God forgive him for all his sins and his lies about her. De Lima said she also forgives him.
Earlier in the day, De Lima decried that Dayan has been successfully turned by the Duterte administration into one of her accusers in the illegal drug trade.
De Lima is facing drug charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
High-profile convicts at NBP had testified Dayan received pay-offs for De Lima’s senatorial campaign in exchange for protection in their drug operation.
De Lim stressed as “absolutely untrue” the statements of Dayan that he received drug money from Espinosa on five occasions and gave them to her when she was still justice secretary.
“I received money from Kerwin. I received money as instructed by Ma’am. She was still justice secretary at the time,” Dayan said in response to the query by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas following his arrest in a ricefield in Barangay Locong, San Gariel town, La Union on November 22.
But Dayan insisted he did not know the money was from drugs. He also strongly belied reports he was involved in illegal drugs.
Dayan also admitted that he and De Lima had been romantically linked.
“It’s true, we had a relationship for seven years,” said Dayan. He said his last contact with De Lima was shortly before the last senatorial election. He remembered De Lima called to thank him for his support. He helped in putting up election posters for the Senator’s candidacy.
De Lima had earlier admitted she had an affair with Dayan but maintained she was never involved in drugs nor receiving pay-offs from drug lords in Bilibid and money from Espinosa.
De Lima said Dayan was just forced to lie against her. But Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director Gen. Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa said nobody was putting pressure on Dayan.
“Ronnie’s claim is absolutely untrue. I don’t know Kerwin and neither does Ronnie. He knows that,” said De Lima, adding that Dayan was no longer employed with her during the time she had supposedly received the money from Espinosa.”
She pointed out the contradicting media reports of the timeline that she had allegedly received the money. Some reports said that she received the money from Espinosa in October, November, and December 2015 while some said she got it in 2014.
“In 2015, Ronnie was no longer employed under me. So how could I have ordered him to get money from Kerwin? But maybe, and as expected, Ronnie was already forced to lie,” De Lima added.
De Lima said she consistently challenge her accusers to bring their cases before the courts which is the proper way.
“And even (when) they portrayed Ronnie Dayan as the missing link (in) their drug conspiracies, his arrest and so-called admissions on Tuesday night present an opportunity for me to put this issue to a close. I still hope that the authorities, in the exercise of their duties, act within the bounds of the law, without abusing their powers and using force and intimidation on purported witnesses, including Ronnie Dayan,” explained De Lima.
She branded all accusations against her “fiction stories of the underworld” that were weaved into a complete but grotesque tapestry.”
She expressed hope that justice and truth would prevail, “as we sort out the truth from the lies that are easily weaved into this tall-tale narrative of a human rights and justice advocate turned drug queen. Regardless of the Goebel’s playbook they are following, a lie repeatedly told can never become the truth. Instead, the truth revealed will set us all free from this madness that we should stop from becoming our new normal,” said De Lima.