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De Lima pleads for ex-driver: 'Huwag ninyo siyang galawin'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday, August 20, appealed for the life of her former bodyguard and driver, Ronnie Dayan, reportedly the subject of a manhunt to pin down his former boss and rumored girlfriend.

"Sana ho 'wag ninyo siyang galawin," De Lima said in a news conference on Saturday. (I hope you don’t touch him.)

De Lima added: "Sana po 'wag 'nyo siyang damputin. Puwede 'nyo lang siyang damputin kung meron kayong warrant of arrest. Pero 'pag wala pong warrant of arrest, sana po 'wag siyang pakialaman."

(I hope you don’t arrest him. You can only arrest him if you have a warrant of arrest. But if you don’t have a warrant of arrest, please leave him alone.)

This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte slammed De Lima for being "immoral." Duterte said De Lima's married driver is her "lover" who accepts money from drug lords detained at the New Bilibid Prisons.

In Saturday’s news conference, De Lima described Dayan as her bodyguard-driver since her days as a private law practitioner. 

A veteran election lawyer before she joined the government, De Lima chaired the Commission on Human Rights from 2008 to 2010, under then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. 

She later served as the justice secretary of Arroyo's successor, Benigno Aquino III, until October 2015 when she ran for senator.

De Lima said Dayan resigned from the Department of Justice in early 2015. "Wala na po siya sa akin, pero meron pong communication po kami hanggang ngayon," she said. (He is no longer employed by me, but we still communicate to this day.)

On Dayan, De Lima also said: "Napalapit po siya sa akin, pero kung gaano man ho kalapit siya sa akin, ipagpaumanhin 'nyo po, I don't want to touch on that muna po kasi personal po na bagay na yan, and again, ayaw kong nalilihis po itong usapin natin sa mga personal na bagay."

(He became close to me, but as to how close he is to me, pardon me, but I don’t want to touch on that for now because that’s a personal matter, and again, I don’t want us to be distracted by personal things.)

Driver fears being killed

With De Lima leading a probe into extrajudicial killings under Duterte, the senator said Dayan is now in danger.

De Lima said Dayan called her 3 or 4 weeks ago to say there seems to be a manhunt targeting him. She said Dayan was panicking and sounded like on the verge of tears.

Dayan supposedly got reports from local policemen that he is being targeted for a "raid."

De Lima quoted Dayan's informants as saying: "Papalabasin na meron kang mga armas. Papalabasin na nanlaban ka at baka patayin ka, o dudukutin ka, kasi balak nila na gawin kang witness or state witness laban sa dati mong boss na si Senator De Lima."

De Lima said this is why Dayan has avoided going home these days.

"Nagtatago ho siya hanggang ngayon," the senator said.

De Lima also said she has not spoken to Dayan, but she has received information that there have been threats to Dayan's life.

De Lima said: "Nagpapa-SOS na raw ho. Kung puwede nga daw ho, tulungan ko siya dahil sobra na ang pangamba niya. Wala na nga daw ho siyang makain."

(He has sent an SOS. If possible, he wants me to help him because he is really worried. In fact he no longer has anything to eat.) 

De Lima later zoomed out to the bigger picture: efforts which, she said, aim to prove she is a coddler of drug lords.

De Lima has repeatedly denied her alleged links to the drug trade.

If her critics prove this, De Lima said on Saturday, "I am willing to be shot in front of the President." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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