MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House of Representatives on Thursday, November 24, ordered the release from its custody of Ronnie Dayan, former aide and ex-boyfriend of Senator Leila de Lima.
In the absence of cases against him in court and without further basis to keep him, Dayan “is a free man,” said House committee on justice chairperson Representative Reynaldo Umali.
Dayan was arrested by the police last Tuesday, November 22, on the basis of a House order for his failure to appear at a House probe in September and October this year.
Dayan, tagged as De Lima’s bagman, was also granted immunity by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for testifying at the reopening of the House probe into the narcotics trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
This does not spare him prosecution in the future on the basis of other pieces of evidence against him – unless he is put under the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), Umali said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who was at the House probe, announced that the justice department is already granting Dayan provisional admission under the WPP.
At the end of the hearing, Dayan accepted the offer of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to be under police protection until he is admitted under the WPP next week.
“Hindi natin iiwan hangga’t ‘di siya maipasok sa witness protection program ng DOJ. We’re expecting that by Tuesday, babalik siya sa Manila para magpa-custody under the witness protection program,” said Dela Rosa.
(We will not leave him until he is under the witness protection program of the DOJ. We’re expecting that by Tuesday, he will return to Manila to be placed under the witness protection progam’s custody.)
Dela Rosa said the Police Community Protection Group and House Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali will be escorting Dayan, his wife, and daughter back to their Pangasinan home.
“I will hold the provincial director directly responsible, so bahala na siya dun. So may tiwala naman ako sa kanya na kaya niya ‘yan. Kung wala akong tiwala, ‘di ko na papuntahin ng Pangasinan niyan. Dito na lang ‘yan sa Crame,” said Dela Rosa.
(I will hold the provincial director directly responsible, so that’s up to him already. I have trust in him that he can do it. If I didn’t trust, I will not let him go to Pangasinan. He’d stay in Crame.)
Dayan on Thursday earlier asked the House committee on justice if it could recommend to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that he be granted immunity. He told the House he had wanted to testify but that he was advised against it by De Lima.
A copy of Alvarez’s letter of approval was sent to the media past 2 pm.
The letter read: “ Under Section 12 of the aforementioned Act, you shall be entitled to immunity from any and all criminal prosecution for the offense or offenses in which your testimony will be given or used and all the rights and benefits provided under Section 8 of the same law; Provided, that you shall tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in the said legislative investigation.”
Dayan joined the 17 other witnesses who were granted immunity by Alvarez in connection with the Bilibid probe.
Most of these witnesses were high-profile NBP convicts who alleged that De Lima, as former justice secretary, used millions worth of drug money to fund her 2016 senatorial bid.
One of her alleged bagmen was Dayan, with whom De Lima reportedly had a 7-year affair.
But a few lawmakers on Thursday cast doubt on Dayan’s credibility, citing his flat denials on allegations made against him.
On Thursday, Dayan denied making any transactions with the drug lords inside the NBP, but he admitted that he collected money for De Lima from Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa 5 times in 2014.
Several congressmen also took turns prying into the relationship of De Lima and Dayan during the hearing. – Rappler.com