By Ma. Reina Leanne Tolentino & Jaime G Aquino/Manila Times
Former Justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima is facing a fact-finding investigation in connection with her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has said.
“Well there is a pending case filed before the deputy ombudsman of the Visayas and that is against de Lima … so we are conducting fact-finding,” Morales told reporters in an interview on Friday on the sidelines of the annual homecoming of the University of the Philippines College of Law.
“Because there have been some leads so we gave it due course by conducting fact-finding,” Morales said.
Morales was criticised in October for saying an investigation on de Lima was “not going to happen” as there were no leads.
A complaint had been filed at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas by Police Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido of Albuera, Leyte against de Lima and several others.
In his complaint, Espenido accused de Lima of receiving protection money from alleged Eastern Visayas drug kingpin Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr.
De Lima has denied any links to drug traders, even as several inmates of the New Bilibid Prison had testified that they gave money to the former Justice secretary through her driver-bodyguard, Ronnie Palisoc-Dayan.
After weeks in hiding, Dayan on Thursday testified before the House of Representatives that he received money from Espinosa on de Lima’s behalf.
The testimony also revealed details of the seven-year romantic affair between de Lima and Dayan, a native of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan.
But Dayan’s testimony clashed with that of Espinosa. At the Senate on Wednesday, Espinosa said the payoffs occurred in 2015, but Dayan said money changed hands in 2014.
Espinosa himself fled to the United Arab Emirates after he and his late father Rolando Sr, mayor of Albuera town, were linked to the drug trade by President Rodrigo Duterte. The younger Espinosa was repatriated to Manila last November 18.
On Saturday, Senior Insp. Ronald Allan Rupisan, chief of police of San Gabriel, La Union, said a farmer-couple had turned over a mobile phone and a wristwatch left by Dayan in their house before his capture last November 22.
Police said Augustine and Cristina Dingcog had confirmed that Dayan slept in their house at Sitio Bato in Barangay Lacong.
The farmers gave the Samsung Galaxy Y with a Smart SIM card and the Festina silver watch to Lacong Barangay chairman Dominador Lilan at around 10.30am on November 25, police said.
Earlier, the couple found Dayan’s gun, a calibre .40 Glock 22 Gen 4 with a magazine and 15 live ammunition. Police are still determining if the gun was licensed.
The couple told Manila Times Dayan’s wife Norilyn visited him at least six times at a hut in a farm owned by a resident of Barangay San Felipe in San Juan, La Union.
The cellphone and the wristwatch were then turned over by Lilan to Police Officer 3 Joffre Uluan, chief investigator of the San Gabriel police station.
Uluan told Manila Times Dayan’s phone contained contact numbers of some prominent government officials like senators, congressmen, board members, police officers and others. The inbox contained text messages sent to his family and other personalities.
Police said the cellphone of Dayan could serve as evidence of recent transactions with a number of personalities while he was hiding in the mountains of San Gabriel.
This will also counter the statements of Dayan during the House inquiry on November 24 that he had no cellphone while he was in hiding, and had no communications with de Lima and his wife Norilyn or other relatives.
Dayan’s supposed friends Daniel Dingcog and Reynaldo Espe told Manila Times de Lima’s ex-bodyguard, whom they knew as “Dodong,” was always busy answering his cellphone, especially when he was already drunk.
“We often heard him (Dayan) talking to a certain ‘Ma’am’ and his ‘love’ to his cellphone, asking for help and advice about his problem, but we did not ask him what his problem was,” Daniel said in the Ilocano language.
Daniel also claimed he saw red and white cars believed to be owned by Dayan, which were used by Dayan’s wife and nephew Jomar each time they visited him in his hideout in September, October and in the first week of November.
He also claimed he had heard Dayan talking to “Ma’am” asking for money.
Daniel said he used to accompany Dayan to Bacnotan town to buy rice and groceries and to get money from the ATM. Dayan always wore a jacket and a cap.
He said he had also accompanied Dayan to the Bacnotan cockpit arena, bringing along fighting cocks.
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