The testimonies of the witnesses may be contradictory but one thing is certain: Senator Leila de Lima received drug money, leaders of the House of Representatives said on Monday.
The contradicting testimonies of drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, Ronnie Dayan and inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) do not absolve de Lima of her links to the illegal drug trade, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.
The two lawmakers insisted that the House investigation into the illegal drug operations at the NBP showed that the former Justice secretary accepted drug money because the witnesses all testified to it.
Dayan admitted to collecting a total of P8 million from Espinosa from August to November 2014. Espinosa, on the other hand, told the Senate inquiry that he gave P8 million to de Lima between February and October 2015.
The inmates — retired police official Rodolfo Magleo, Engelberto Durano, Jeffrey Diaz aka Jaguar and Herbert Colanggo — also accused Dayan of collecting drug money for de Lima. This however was denied by Dayan, who claimed that he never met the inmates.
Dayan testified that he only knew acting Director Rafael Ragos of the Bureau of Corrections because he gave de Lima a brown envelope and a plastic bag which contained money.
“Not everything that the witnesses say is the truth because of self preservation. All witnesses tell partial truths because they also have fears that they could be charged. But we were able to establish the fact everyone of them was giving money to de Lima,” Alvarez said in a television interview.
He added that de Lima could not have raised enough money to pay for her television advertisements during the campaign period if not for drug money.
“How could she have paid for the campaign ads on ABS-CBN? GMA and TV5? Dami niyang sinagasaan [noong Justice Secretary](She offended a lot of people),” Alvarez said.
Fariñas said he also believed that Espinosa was telling the truth.
“What Espinosa was saying is the truth. He got the date wrong, but that’s not important anymore. What is important is that he was the one collecting the money for Senator de Lima. Let’s look at the forest, rather than the trees. The testimonies still match,” he told reporters.
“The problem with critics is that they would rather look at the leaves rather than the tree,” Fariñas added.
De Lima had strongly denied asking for or receiving drug money. She said Espinosa’s testimony may have been made under duress.
On Monday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Directors Ruel Lasala and Rey Esmeralda filed a supplemental complaint against de Lima at the Supreme Court.
The group submitted documents on de Lima’s illicit relationship with Ronnie Dayan to boost the disbarment complaint filed against her earlier. The complainants also cited De Lima’s advice to Dayan that he should remain in hiding and ignore the summons of the House of Representatives to attend its inquiry into the illegal drug trade at the NBP.
“The admission of Senator De Lima about her illicit and scandalous relationship in public is definitely not a frailty of a woman who is a member of the Bar,” the complainants said. “Her public admission warrants her immediate suspension from the legal profession until this disbarment case is resolved.”
“Senator De Lima’s act of blatantly urging Dayan to snub the committee hearings, and instead hide in the meantime suggests her disregard of the rule of law. What she initiated was obstruction of justice not to mention that it was a disrespect of a co-equal institution,” VACC chairman Dante Jimenez said.
“She was making a mockery of our justice system which is ironic considering her previous post as justice secretary.”
The Committee on Justice at the House of Representatives had approved a resolution seeking to cite de Lima in contempt for obstruction of justice.
The Senate is not likely to defend De Lima if the House cites her in contempt, Senate Majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said.
Sotto explained that the case involves a member of the Senate, not the entire institution.
“The Senate will not circle its wagons for a member because the issue is about a senator and not the Senate,” Sotto said in an interview.
De Lima had said she will not honor the show cause order because there is no justice in the house proceedings.
“They’ve been disrespecting me since the start of that so-called House inquiry and I am not recognizing that inquiry. That is plain and simple kangaroo court. So I’m just being consistent,” she added.
A supplemental complaint was also filed before the Senate ethics committee by Abelardo De Jesus.
The lawyer claimed that the senator violated Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code when she stopped Dayan from attending the House inquiry.