RIZAL, Philippines – Senator Leila De Lima may not have directly traded illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison, but she benefited from it by either turning a blind eye or facilitating the transactions, claimed President Rodrigo Duterte.
"She was on the take. She would not have allowed those things to happen for nothing? You must be kidding. Everyone was using it and they were enjoying the trappings of a wealthy man," said Duterte on Wednesday, August 24.
He was speaking at the wake of a police officer in Taytay, Rizal who was killed by drug suspects during a raid.
Duterte accused De Lima's driver and supposed lover, Ronnie Dayan, of being the connection between De Lima and the drug personalities driving the operations, as shown by a "matrix" he is set to show the public soon.
"Impossible to do that unless you have the go signal of the highest – the highest is [connection] of driver of De Lima, si Dayan," said Duterte, describing the driver as a "key player" in the operations.
But based on his intel, Duterte said, De Lima "facilitated" some illegal activities in the prison but did not herself trade drugs.
"She facilitated everything for money, she was not into magpabili ng [drugs] (buying drugs)," said Duterte.
The matrix also shows the alleged involvement of former Bureau of Corrections head and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, a governor, and police superintendents.
Baraan has denied involvement in the drug trade and appealed to the President for "fairness and due process."
The governor, whom Duterte still refused to name, has supposedly been convicted of a crime before.
Duterte said one clue to De Lima's role in the drug operations is the lavish lifestyles that high-profile inmates, including top drug lords, enjoyed even while inside the national penitentiary. (IN PHOTOS: Drug lords, murderers, and high living in Bilibid)
"I have with me the matrix and there's one governor there. Si De Lima kasali, 'yung operation ng (De Lima was a part of the operation) how it was how people were enjoying privileges when they're inside the prison – night club, jacuzzi, women going in and out, and itong mga baril (and these guns)," he said.
He blasted her for "pretending" to be a crusader for justice despite her illicit deal making with questionable characters.
"Here is a woman posturing herself to be a crusader for good government but because hindi niya mapigilan immorality niya (but she cannot stop her immorality)," said Duterte.
"Her sex escapades led her to commit several serious violations of law," he added.
But to "the credit of De Lima," her marriage with her former husband was annulled, just like Duterte's marriage to his wife, he said. Duterte himself has admitted to having multiple girlfriends.
He now claims De Lima has a new "boyfriend" who once drove motorcycles for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
"May bago siya (She has a new one), the first name is Warren," he said, adding that his source of information is former MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, whose senatorial bid he supported in the 2016 elections.
Tolentino finished 13th in the senatorial elections, after De Lima, and had contested the ranking before the board of canvassers finally proclaimed De Lima.
Duterte's accusations against De Lima come after the first Senate investigation into his administration's campaign against illegal drugs, a probe led by De Lima.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he already criticized De Lima for the illegal activities in the national penitentiary while she was Justice Secretary.
De Lima has denied any involvement, saying it was even she who authorized the raid that revealed the lavish lifestyles and drug operations of inmates. (READ: De Lima: I exposed drug use in Bilibid, why probe me?) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.