MANILA, Philippines – Amid allegations of immorality, Senator Leila de Lima said her former driver and bodyguard had long been separated with his wife before their relationship started.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had said De Lima's public admission of her "immoral" affair with Ronnie Dayan – who is said to be married – is "strong evidence" to disbar her.
Asked directly if Dayan and his wife were separated before De Lima and he became an item, the senator said: "Yes, matagal na (a long time ago)."
"No one can judge me on my morality," added De Lima, a known election lawyer before entering government service.
De Lima was previously married to lawyer Plaridel Bohol, with whom she has two sons. Their marriage had been annulled.
De Lima, in a TV interview last Monday, November 14, admitted she had a relationship with Dayan, whom witnesses at a congressional inquiry had tagged as her alleged bagman in collecting drug money from convicts when she was justice chief.
The senator said her relationship with Dayan, which lasted for "a few years," was part of her "frailties as a woman."
"Like many of us, including my detractors, some decisions and relationships in our past have not been the best and the wisest. I have learned from these experiences and resolved to use my pain to focus on the good I can do," she earlier said.
De Lima then slammed Aguirre for claiming that her admission makes the accusations against her more believable, saying her personal relationships are irrelevant.
"Assuming lang 'yung kasinungalingan nila na ako ay in any way involved (in drugs) through a bagman, kailangan ba may romantic relationship with the bagman? (Assuming that their lie is true that I am involved in drugs through a bagman, do I have to have a romantic relationship with the bagman to prove that?) Theoretically anyone can be a bagman, related to me as a friend, whatever," she said.
De Lima said President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies are only highlighting her personal life to assassinate her character.
"The misogynistic tendency of the President that he wants to portray me as an immoral woman. Diyan pumapasok ang double standard ng society natin (That's when double standard comes in). Look who's talking?" De Lima said in another interview.
Duterte has said that De Lima's admission of a relationship with Dayan won't be enough to pin her down, and that Dayan's testimony would be crucial.
P1 million bounty for Dayan
The National Bureau of Investigation earlier filed multiple charges against De Lima, Dayan, and 15 others for their alleged involvement in the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison when De Lima was justice chief.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) had also earlier filed a complaint against De Lima, Dayan, and others based solely on testimonies of mostly convicts at the House inquiry into Bilibid drugs.
On Tuesday, November 15, the VACC announced it had raised P1 million as reward money for information leading to Dayan's arrest.
Sought for comment, De Lima said she is unaware of Dayan's whereabouts.
"I don't know where he is. I won't comment on that. I would not know that. I really do not know that and there must be a reason kung bakit ayaw niya (why he does not want to surface)," she said. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com