Ronnie Dayan, Senator Leila de Lima’s former driver and bodyguard, was arrested in La Union late Tuesday morning, police confirmed. Presented to media, he admitted having had an amorous relationship with her for seven years but declined to reply to other questions. He said he’d rather speak up at the Congress hearing on drug lords.
A police spot report sent to media said: “Pls be informed that at about 11:30 am Nov 22, at Sitio Turod, Brgy. San Felipe, San Juan, La Union (by) joint elements of CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) La Union, PPO (Provincial Police Office) La Union, PPO Pangasinan and Bacnotan PS (Police Station) arrested Mr Ronnie Dayan. Arrested person was brought to La Union PPO for proper disposition.”
Dayan has been accused of being one of the alleged “bagmen” who collected money from convicted drug lords at the National Bilibid Prisons, supposedly for De Lima, when she was still Secretary of Justice.
Recenty, De Lima has admitted to having had an affair with Dayan.
At Crame: flak jacket, no handcuffs
Presented to media just before 6 pm at Camp Crame by Philippine National Police chief Gen. Ronald dela Rosa, Dayan admitted he had a seven-year relationship with Sen. Leila de Lima, when she was still his boss as Justice secretary. But he said the relationship ended in 2014, and de Lima “thanked” him.
Pressed later to explain the reason for her gratitude, he sidestepped insinuations that he may have helped de Lima’s political run through funds collected from drug lords.
Garbed in flak jacket but without handcuffs, Dayan denied he enjoyed the protection of powerful Northern Luzon politicians who are also involved in illicit drugs.
“None. No one gave me sanctuary. The hut I stayed in is on a lot owned by the spouse of an uncle of a nephew,” he replied, speaking in Filipino.
He said he survived by planting and eating vegetables everyday on that small plot of a distant relative.
He sidestepped other questions such as whether he knew alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa by saying, “Hindi pa ako handang sumagot sa mga iyan. Mas maganda sa Congress [I’m not yet ready to answer now. Better for me to talk in Congress],” referring to his scheduled appearance in the House of Representatives, which issued the contempt citation that became basis for his arrest warrant.
Dayan also denied that some influential people were trying to influence him into saying certain things when he appears in Congress.
Dela Rosa scoffed at rumors that police already had Dayan at the weekend, and delayed his appearance in order to “process” his testimony.
He credited the head of the Police Region 1 Office (PRO 1), and said he never doubted that Dayan would in time be arrested, as “all the resources” of PRO-1 were used to hunt him.
Heavy police escort
Earlier Tuesday, Dayan was brought to Camp Crame in Quezon City under heavy police escort, on a black unmarked Hyundai Starex van – part of a four-vehicle convoy that came from La Union.
After “processing” by the PNP, Dayan is set to be detained at the House of Representatives, where he is expected to testify in connection with a panel’s investigation into the proliferation of the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary when de Lima was still Justice secretary;
In a press conference shortly after his arrival in Camp Crame, PNP Chief Dela Rosa said they will turn Dayan over to the House Sergeant at Arms and raised one hand of Dayan during the press conference to show that he was not handcuffed.
Dayan said that he went into hiding after the House issued a warrant for his arrest after citing him in contempt for snubbing a House hearing on the NBP drug trade.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) earlier offered a P1 million reward for Dayan’s arrest, which according to Dela Rosa can be claimed by the police since it was not government money.
Dayan said in the same press conference that he last talked with De Lima after the election last May but said that his relationship with De Lima ended in 2014.
Warrant for snubbing House
The House of Representatives issued a warrant for Dayan’s arrest for failing to respond to the chamber’s summons to appear before its inquiry into the Bilibid drug trade.
Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the House justice committee that undertook the inquiry into the Bilibid drug trade, said they would take custody of Dayan but would still work out the arrangements.
“I am still making arrangements, nothing definite yet,” Umali said in a message to InterAksyon. “Need to talk to PNP for details, but definitely will take custody.”
But House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said Dayan “will be brought before the Speaker who issued the warrant for his arrest, and will testify before the committee on justice.”
“He will be brought to the House of Representatives and I’ve instructed the Sergeant-at-Arms General Detabale to prepare his place of confinement, in coordination with the PNP,” Farinas said.
Reacting to the news of Dayan’s arrest, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman aired concerns that “he may be coerced. This should make us worry.”
De Lima is the subject of complaints filed before the Department of Justice over her alleged involvement in the drug trade, which she has consistently denied.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, one of those that filed complaints against the senator, had also announced a P1 million reward leading to Dayan’s arrest.
‘Bring it on, cut the drama’ – de Lima
Reacting to news of Dayan’s arrest, de Lima said in a statement she was prepared to face what she expected an even more intense barrage of accusations, but dared authorities to simply file them and spare the nation the “drama.”
She also appealed to authorities to ensure the safety of both Dayan and alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, who is set to testify at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, while Dayan is to appear at the House of Representatives.
“Like I said, I’m ready to appear before any court to prove there is no basis to all the accusations against me.
“I did not receive a single centavo from the illicit drugs trade. All my life, especially in my career as a public servant, I never benefited from any anomaly, because I can never betray the people’s trust,” de Lima said.
As everyone knows, de Lima added, authorities have been obsessed with getting Dayan for his alleged role in the New Bilibid Prisons drug trade. She noted that President Duterte had led efforts to unearth her amorous relations with Dayan in order to lay the predicate for insisting he was her bagman as well.
“I expect authorities to treat Ronnie Dayan well. I also appeal to the President to ensure the safety of people who will be used to testify against me like Kerwin Espinosa. I’m the one you’re really after. Don’t make it difficult for other people, criminals or not.”
She also appealed to officials to stop whipping up drama in demolishing her name. “Please just file the cases and I will face you in court.”
She urged Filipinos to be vigilant about what’s happening to the country. “I trust that in the end, the whole truth will surface.”