MANILA, Philippines – From her affair with her driver and her alleged links to the illegal drug trade, Senator Leila de Lima has faced a slew of controversies in recent months.
While the vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte slams the accusations against her as political persecution, government officials claim there is damning evidence that she facilitated – and benefited from – the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) back when she was justice secretary.
Convicted inmates testified against her during House inquiries, claiming De Lima received millions in payoffs that helped fund her successful 2016 senatorial bid. Aside from her alleged drug links, De Lima's character has been questioned because of her affair with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan, her alleged bagman for drug payoffs. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)
Rappler reviews the series of events – from the accusations to the House probes – that led to the arrest of the neophyte senator.
Bilibid raid, 'drug matrix'
December 15, 2014 – In a surprise raid inside Bilibid, authorities discovered "VIP treatment" for some high-profile inmates and drug lords. Police also found shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), other illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia inside the inmates' jail cells.
De Lima, then justice secretary, ordered the inspection. She was present during the raid. (IN PHOTOS: Drug lords, murderers, and high living in Bilibid)
Duterte claimed he told De Lima about the existence of shabu inside the NBP. "It took her 7 months to enter the premises," he said.
August 23, 2016 – De Lima reacted to news of the impending House probe, saying she was the one who exposed drug use inside Bilibid.
De Lima denied the accusation, calling the President's drug matrix "scrap paper" that should be thrown away.
Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
September 20, 2016 – The House committee on justice began a series of probes into the alleged proliferation of drugs inside the NBP during the previous administration. De Lima refused to attend the probe, calling it a "sham inquiry" designed to discredit her because of her vocal opposition to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
High-profile inmates are among the witnesses to be presented by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to testify against De Lima. (READ: Witnesses pin De Lima on day 1 of House probe into Bilibid)
During the hearings, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Rafael Ragos and National Bureau of Investigation officer Jovencio Ablen Jr claimed they brought drug money to De Lima's residence when she was still justice secretary.
Herbert Colanggo, a detainee at the New Bilibid Prison, also claimed he gave De Lima P3 million, and the prison director P1.2 million monthly.
September 21, 2016 – On the second day of the hearings, leaders of different gangs inside the NBP said De Lima raised funds for her 2016 senatorial bid through illegal drugs, with the money supposedly collected through convicted carnapper Jaybee Sebastian.
October 6, 2016 – In a 12-hour hearing, witnesses testified about De Lima’s supposed negligence as justice secretary, more accusations of receiving drug payoffs, and her relationship with Dayan.
Former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu accused De Lima of sidelining the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) during the 2014 NBP raid. De Lima defended this, citing redundancy and "personality-related issues." (READ: De Lima hits 'outrageous insinuation' over 2014 Bilibid raid)
Convicted police official Engelberto Durano, meanwhile, claimed he handed De Lima P1.5 million upon the orders of the late Jeffrey Diaz alias "Jaguar", an alleged top drug lord in Cebu.
De Lima’s former security aide Joenel Sanchez, a member of the Presidential Security Group, attested to the senator’s relationship with Dayan. But he did not mention De Lima’s alleged drug links.
October 10, 2016 – Convicted kidnapper and carnapper Jaybee Sebastian claimed illegal activities inside the prison brought in as much as P100 million a day. Prison officials are allegedly paid P100,000 a week to turn off signal jammers, allowing inmates to trade drugs even while in prison.
November 24, 2016 – Dayan turned up at the House hearing following his arrest in San Juan, La Union. He admitted his relationship with the senator and admitted to receiving money on her behalf from alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. He also said the senator advised him to hide and skip the House hearings.
Lawmakers pried into Dayan’s 7-year relationship with De Lima, asking misogynistic and sexually laden questions. (READ: 'Kailan kayo nag-climax?': Nonsense questions at the Bilibid drugs hearing)
De Lima had publicly accused the Duterte administration of pressuring inmates to testify at the hearings.
Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
Drug cases, arrest
February 17, 2017 – The DOJ filed 3 criminal complaints against De Lima before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) for her alleged involvement in the drug trade. The complaints were raffled off to Muntinlupa RTC branches 204, 205 and 206. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is Leila de Lima being accused of?)
De Lima said the drug cases are "plain and simple political persecution," adding that she had prepared herself to be the "first political prisoner under this regime."
The next day, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II denied that the cases are "politically motivated", and added that it was "wrong for Senator De Lima to refer to herself as a political prisoner."
De Lima, who was at the Senate at the time, pleaded for her arrest at 10 am the next morning, as agreed upon with authorities. She headed home to see her family and prepare her things, but she returned to the Senate after finding out that authorities planned to arrest her at her home. (READ: De Lima's full statement on her arrest)
De Lima was the justice secretary who investigated Revilla, Estrada, and former senator Juan Ponce Enrile over their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam, the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country in recent memory. – research by Michael Bueza and Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com