PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is in possession of wiretaps and ATM records showing that the former driver-bodyguard of Sen. Leila de Lima transacted with drug syndicates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa when she was Justice secretary.
Duterte made the revelation in a news conference at 1 a.m. in Davao City on Sunday, where he addressed criticisms, including from his relatives abroad, over his public exposure of de Lima’s alleged affair with the driver-bodyguard, identified as Ronnie Palisoc Dayan.
Duterte claimed the driver-bodyguard, whom he alleged had collected money from drug traders for de Lima’s senatorial campaign, could not have acted without her knowledge. The two were intimate, he said, based on recordings of their “lovers’ talk” over the phone.
“What is really crucial here is that because of her [romantic]relationship with her driver which I termed ‘immoral’ because the driver has a family and wife, that connection gave rise to the corruption of what was happening inside the national penitentiary. That is why the inmates had special privileges,” he said.
“All of this could have only happened if there was a go-signal from the head of the department, which is the secretary,” the President told reporters.
Duterte said a foreign country, which he did not name, provided the wiretaps. “Even the ATM (automated teller machine) and the calls emanating from Muntinlupa to her driver,” he said.
The President admitted that the recordings were inadmissible as evidence in court, but said he would confront de Lima with these if given the chance.
“De Lima, I was listening to you. If she would face me, the two of us, I would tell her: ‘Explain to me your immorality and explain to me your connection to the drug deal,’” Duterte added.
De Lima has admitted to being close to her former driver, but denied that she tolerated illegal drug trade and pocketed money from drug syndicates. The senator even said she was wiling to resign from her post and be shot in front of the President if there was authentic evidence against her.
The lawmaker has called on the President to spare her former driver-bodyguard from personal attacks, saying he had gone into hiding because of threats to his life since Duterte assumed the presidency.
The President would have none of de Lima’s pleas.
“As the President, I got this information … as a privilege. But I am not required to prove it in court. That is somebody else’s business. My job is to protect public interest. She’s lying through her teeth,” he said.
Instead of appealing for her former driver-bodyguard, the President urged the senator to reveal her former employee’s sources of funds for the construction of a house in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan.
“Afraid to just tell the truth, or maybe afraid to just tell a lie? Which is which? He should tell the truth, expose everything. If he lies, he will go to jail. What is he afraid of? Tell me, where did your driver get the money to build such a good house? Can you show me their income? What is their business?” Duterte asked.
“Senator de Lima was there [in Urbiztondo]so many times. First during the house blessings, and on weekends you’re with your driver. Everybody knows,” Duterte added.