President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel on Tuesday called on Sen. Leila de Lima to quit after admitting that she had a romantic relationship with her driver-bodyguard because of the “frailties of a woman.”
As this developed, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) announced a P1mn bounty for the capture of de Lima’s ex-lover, Ronnie Palisoc-Dayan.
Businessmen pooled the funds after Dayan failed to show up in last month’s House of Representatives inquiry into de Lima’s alleged role in the proliferation of the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told reporters.
Duterte bared de Lima’s affair with Dayan in August, accusing the former Justice secretary of accepting payoffs from prison drug lords to finance her senatorial campaign, with the driver-bodyguard as her bagman.
In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said de Lima’s admission of her “romantic albeit illegal and immoral liaison with her bodyguard-driver” validates the president’s accusation that the senator “committed unlawful and immoral acts and opens her to a criminal charge of adultery, her lover being a married man.”
Panelo later told reporters: “It strengthens the case filed against her on her involvement in the drug operations. It opens her to expulsion proceedings in the Senate by the Senate Ethics Committee for immorality and grave misconduct in office apart from opening herself to a disbarment proceedings as a member of the bar for immorality and unethical conduct. To save the Senate from further embarrassment she must voluntarily resign.”
De Lima admitted in a television interview aired Monday that she was in a relationship with Dayan, a native of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan, for a few years and that they broke up before she ran for the Senate.
But the senator maintained that she never collected drug-tainted money. She declined to give further details about her ties with Dayan, saying she did not want to publicly discuss private matters.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre also said de Lima dug her own grave with her admission.
“It has very big implications (on the charges against de Lima) because it corroborates statements of the witnesses and establishes the link between her and Ronnie Dayan, who was pinpointed as the collector of drug money,” Aguirre told the reporters. Aguirre also said de Lima’s admission of the affair with Dayan established the fact that the latter became her common-law husband.
“She denied that (affair) earlier. And now, the truth has come out. Ronnie Dayan was her common-law husband,” Aguirre said.
The admission also strengthens the disbarment case filed against her by the VACC before the Supreme Court, he claimed.
“There is no more doubt now that she had an affair with a married man. That is immorality… the Supreme Court is consistent in imposing the ultimate penalty of disbarment for lawyers involved in illicit affairs,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had received information that Dayan was being harboured by a big-time politician from Pangasinan, also linked to illegal drugs. He declined to name the politician.
De Lima on Tuesday insisted that she never allowed her personal life to affect her work as a public servant, and that her track record could speak for itself.
“Like many of us, including my detractors, some decisions and relationships in our past have not been the best and the wisest. I have learned from these experiences and resolved to use my pain to focus on the good I can do,” de Lima said in a statement.
De Lima denied anew that she financed the construction of Dayan’s house in Pangasinan and her alleged links to the illegal drug operations at the national penitentiary.
“My record and my reputation have been untarnished until now because of all these unjust, unfair and false allegations and fabricated lies against my alleged involvement in the drug trade. I have made my peace with my past and my family. I don’t know if my primary attacker can say the same,” de Lima said.