DOJ INVESTIGATE LEILA , DRIVER ON DRUGS
MANILA, Philippines - She went after corrupt officials and criminals as justice secretary in the previous administration. Now Sen. Leila de Lima finds herself the subject of a criminal investigation after being accused by President Duterte of benefitting from money given by convicts operating as drug lords. De Lima and other former officials of the Department of Justice (DOJ) are being investigated over the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. The NBP is under the supervision of the DOJ. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has confirmed receiving information that at least two former ranking officials of the department benefited from millions in drug money from high-profile inmates in NBP. These two past DOJ officials allegedly connived with the NBP inmates so the latter could have their way and continue narcotics operations from inside the penitentiary. They allegedly allowed the daily meal budget for NBP inmates to be brought down to P40 from the previous budget of P50 so that the P240,000 “savings” per day could be pocketed by these officials and their cohorts at the state penitentiary. The justice chief also said some NBP officers were liquidated upon the order of some inmates. “Everybody in the DOJ from the past administration – at all levels – will be investigated. Our objective really is to find out what happened in the previous administration and why did illegal drugs proliferate in Bilibid,” Aguirre stressed.
Duterte, in a speech last Wednesday, alleged that it was De Lima who benefited from drug money collected from NBP inmates by her supposed driver-lover. Vitaliano said the DOJ will conduct a fact-finding investigation, but gave assurance that it would not focus on specific persons or former officials. He said a fact-finding panel would be tapped for the probe. De Lima has publicly criticized the administration for its supposed disregard of human rights in its anti-narcotics campaign. She initiated the Senate investigation on the police operations and the reported vigilante killings. During her term at the DOJ, De Lima pursued the fact-finding probe against lawmakers involved in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The DOJ filed the charges, which led to the plunder indictment of former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. Grudge started in 2009 The grudge between Duterte and De Lima did not happen overnight.
According to Aguirre, it could be traced way back to 2009 when De Lima, then chair of the Commission on Human Rights, filed charges against Duterte, at the time Davao City mayor, over alleged involvement in killings by the Davao death squad (DDS). “That’s where it all started,” he told The STAR. Aguirre, who served as Duterte’s lawyer in the criminal investigation, recalled that the insinuations linking his close friend and fraternity brother to the DDS were “baseless” and “trumped up.” Aguirre recalled that De Lima pointed to a supposed gravesite of victims of extrajudicial killings by the death squad, which turned out to be a gravesite for victims of atrocities during the Japanese occupation.
“There was no evidence ever found, only baseless allegations. That’s why it never reached the court,” he pointed out. Aguirre also recalled how De Lima revived the issue last year when she was secretary of justice and initiated a fact-finding investigation on the DDS. De Lima even publicly announced that the National Bureau of Investigation was able to secure a witness who used to be a member of the DDS and had knowledge of the killings. The move triggered a word war between the two. De Lima threatened to prosecute Duterte, who in turn called her gaga (foolish) for thinking he could commit murder, being a lawyer and former prosecutor. “She claimed having a supposed witness, but where is that witness? Is there really a witness? Because if that’s the case, there should have been a development on that,” Aguirre pointed out.
Last May, then justice secretary Emmanuel Caparas revealed that the probe on the DDS hit a dead-end after it lost the lone witness who surfaced last year and executed an affidavit detailing the supposed operations of the vigilante group. Caparas said there was nothing to pursue anymore as the male witness, whom he did not name, had left the witness protection program. Aguirre said the allegation that Duterte was behind the DDS was an “old issue that has never been proven” but which De Lima continued to pursue. “The President is a lawyer and former prosecutor so he knows for a fact that murder is a crime,” he assured. Police probe driver The acting director of the provincial police in Pangasinan has ordered an investigation on the controversial driver of De Lima, including his alleged properties. Senior Supt. Ronald Lee told reporters yesterday during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (Pangasinan chapter) forum that based on pronouncements by President Duterte, “it seems they (Malacañang) have gotten more valuable information than us here.” Lee was referring to information on De Lima’s driver Ronnie Palisoc Dayan.
The President disclosed last Wednesday that De Lima and Dayan were lovers and that the driver allegedly collected money from convicted drug lords at the NBP in Muntinlupa City. Duterte also claimed that De Lima funded the construction of a house for her driver. Lee said investigators are also verifying reports of Dayan’s indiscriminate firing of a gun two years ago to check on the status of the incident and why he was not charged. “There are rumors there were persons who went to the (police) station, prosecutors who talked to the police about this,” Lee said. He said the files involving Dayan are at the police station. Lee said there is no order yet for them to do such gathering of information about Dayan but they did so “in anticipation in case we would be asked to provide information.”
Asked about the house in Barangay Galarin in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan that the President revealed was allegedly built by De Lima for Dayan, Lee said the house is just there and based on what police say, it has a high fence. “The talk is who funded the construction of the houses,” he said. “There is no order for us to conduct lifestyle check (on Dayan) but it’s open knowledge in the area who shouldered the expenses because the guy is known to have no financial capability to build such,” he added. “Some say it’s a mansion but I said is that already a mansion? But it’s just big, not really something to be called mansion, it’s concrete, has high walls and they are seen using it as a vacation house,” he said.
Meanwhile, a relative of Dayan in Urbiztondo who spoke on condition of anonymity told The STAR that it is public knowledge that De Lima is a frequent visitor in their town. “You cannot hide something that is very vulgar because look at the houses,” he said. He said one was new while the others were built many years ago in the same area. He said Dayan also reportedly has at least three “nice” vehicles but they are not sure if De Lima’s driver owns them. Dayan also reportedly owns several properties. Dayan is a cockfight aficionado, he added.
“He might be investigated by Bato,” he said, referring to Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa. He said Dayan came from a poor family and found a job in Metro Manila. He became a toughie in their town when he became close to De Lima, the source added. Dayan became influential and was approached by people seeking promotions or transfer of assignment in their jobs, especially in the National Bureau of Investigation and other agencies under the DOJ. When he is in Urbiztondo, he shares his blessings with the poor, especially the children, by giving them food and money, the source added.
During fiestas, he is also a star as he supports candidates in popularity contests for fund-raising projects, he said. But many hate him because when he is drunk, he is uncontrollable, the source said. Dayan’s uncle Alfredo Dayan Lomibao said De Lima’s driver is a nice guy.
“Mabait si Ronnie,” Lomibao told reporters who went to Barangay Galarin in Urbiztondo. Lomibao said he has no knowledge of the controversies that have surfaced about his nephew, who is now into farming. With Eva Visperas, Gilbert Bayoran, Cesar Ramirez