IN a new twist to an ongoing word war with the highest official of the land, Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday admitted there were “snippets of truth” to President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirade, but declined to go into details when pressed by reporters.
A seething de Lima, however, vehemently denied the President’s allegation that she benefited from drug money in the New Bilibid Prison.
“This is what I can say at this point. We’ve seen some snippets of facts, snippets of truth, but the bulk of it are distortions, exaggerations and lies,” she told reporters.
The senator said she did not find it necessary to issue a denial on Duterte’s allegations, pointing out that she had done so many times and in various media interviews.
De Lima was referring to allegations she was a protector and coddler of drug lords, that she was on their payroll, and that they contributed to her senatorial campaign.
“I have denied that for so many times. So, I’m denying it again. (That’s) an absolute lie; that’s completely false! I would never do that because I’ve never betrayed my oath as a public servant and I don’t intend to betray my oath as a public servant,” the senator said.
De Lima, a leading critic of the President’s campaign against illegal drugs, said she did not want to publicly engage the President in a verbal tussle.
Asked what were the “snippets of truth” she was referring to, de Lima declined to elaborate.
Duterte on Wednesday attacked de Lima and accused her of having an affair with her married driver-bodyguard, who allegedly collected campaign donations from drug syndicates.
In a prepared statement, de Lima on Thursday accused the President of unprecedented “abuse and misuse of executive power.”
She also appealed to the President to give her a chance to defend herself and spare her family and former colleagues who have nothing to do with the issue.
Now a farmer
The driver-bodyguard, previously identified by whistleblower Sandra Cam as Ronnie Palisoc-Dayan, is now a farmer and supervises the planting of palay and vegetables in more than three hectares of land allegedly partly owned by the senator, according to a The Manila Times investigation.
Dayan, a former member of the Philippine Marines, is said to be a resident of Brgy. Galarin, a remote village of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan with more than 1,300 registered voters.
The Manila Times, accompanied by policemen in Urbiztondo led by Chief Inspector Josua T. Maximo, interviewed some relatives of Dayan and the village chairman.
Dayan was born in Urbiztondo and studied at the Galarin-Pisuac Elementary School and High School.
He is married to Norly Magallanes, a native of Manapla town in Negros Occidental. They have four children. The two were said to have split in 2014.
According to Dayan’s relatives, he was recruited as member of the Philippine Marines after high school and was assigned to the Visayas and Mindanao. He met Norly when he was in the Marines.
When he was about to retire in 2013, Dayan was assigned by his superior as one of the security escorts of de Lima, then Justice chief.
Village residents claimed seeing de Lima and Dayan without bodyguards sometime in January and July 2014, and later during weekends.
Residents also saw construction materials being delivered for the renovation of Dayan’s orange house, and claimed seeing de Lima supervising the construction of a rest house, painted white, more than 100 meters away from the driver-bodyguard’s home.
Dayan’s relatives however said they have no personal knowledge about the alleged affair.
Galarin village chief Rodolfo “Jun” Licuanan told reporters he only knew about the rest house owned by the senator, and not the affair between her and Dayan.
The village chief claimed that de Lima would stay in Dayan’s house whenever she visited the town.
“I knew she was around because people would tell me that she was here,” Licuanan said.
The last time the senator visited the village was in December last year, when she distributed some gifts, Licuanan said.
“But she did not go around; it’s the people who went to her white house,” he said.
The Pangasinan police chief also claimed de Lima was often seen in Urbiztondo, and always had an advance party.
“It’s open knowledge in the village who financed the building of that rest house,” Sr. Supt. Ronald Lee, provincial police director, said during a media forum in Lingayen town on August 18.
“He (Dayan) is just a driver and residents say he could not have bought that property by himself,” Lee added.
Dayan is now a “good citizen” after an incident on August 10, 2014 when he allegedly punched a policeman, indiscriminately fired two guns, and threatened to kill Larry Palisoc and his mother Percilita, the village chief said.
Percilita is Dayan’s aunt while Larry is his cousin. A case against Dayan was filed on August 28, 2014 for grave threats and illegal discharge of firearms.
But it was dismissed by Senior Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Ely Reintar in a resolution dated November 6, 2014.