MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Leila de Lima had no questions but only a "final message" to alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa at a Senate inquiry where he had just accused her of receiving P8 million from him for her senatorial bid.
"Final message ko po kay (My final message to) Mr Kerwin Espinosa. I cannot talk to him directly, but may I just say this: 'May God forgive you for all your sins, and may God forgive you for all your lies about me. And I forgive you,'" she said at the hearing on Wednesday, November 23.
Instead of asking questions to Espinosa, De Lima made a brief manifestation, where she denied her alleged link to Espinosa that was supposedly facilitated by her former driver, Ronnie Dayan.
"I categorically, firmly, and absolutely deny having known Mr Kerwin Espinosa. I do not remember any instance or occasion of having met him. I categorically, firmly, and absolutely deny having received any money, any cash from Mr Kerwin Espinosa, either directly or indirectly through anyone else, in any occasion at any time, whether that money is supposedly for either protection or fund-raising for campaign expenses," she said.
She alleged that the portion of Espinosa's affidavit that referred to her was made "under gunpoint, under duress." She said this is why "it's pointless for me to question him on those points." (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)
"And I also feel that it would not be appropriate for me to do so because there would be questions on my objectivity, on my interest because I'm being implicated expressedly as having received that money," De Lima added.
De Lima had earlier welcomed Dayan's arrest and allegations, saying these would now allow her to clear her name before the court. She is facing multiple complaints for drug trafficking before the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II saw De Lima's decision not to question Espinosa as proof that the witness was "telling the truth."
"It means talagang natatakot siya mag cross-examine kay Kerwin dahil nagsasabi ng totoo (It means she's afraid to cross-examine Kerwin because he's telling the truth)," Aguirre said.
He said that it was a "lost opportunity" on the part of De Lima.
"She should not have passed the opportunity to cross-examine him. A lawyer worth his salt has the easiest way to cross-examine a lying witness and not pass the opportunity. She just said he is a perjured witness, that he is just following the script," Aguirre said.
He added that the Senate hearing was the "right place" to cross-examine Espinosa. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com