Ronnie Dayan tells court: I never received drug money for De Lima

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13)— Ronnie Dayan, former bodyguard of Senator Leila de Lima and co-accused in one of her two remaining drug cases, testified in court that he never received any drug money for the former Justice Secretary who has been detained for more than five years.

Dayan and De Lima arrived separately at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Friday morning, escorted by authorities.

It was Dayan's first time to testify for his defense. His counsel, Atty. Haidee Soriano, told reporters that during the hearing, her client affirmed his judicial affidavit – denying getting P10 million from then Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos in 2012. The money was supposedly De Lima's share in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison.

In the 23-page document, Dayan said he was not even at De Lima's residence in Parañaque when the handover was supposed to have taken place—he was at home in Pangasinan since it was his dayoff. He added, security is tight in the subdivision, contrary to Ragos' earlier claim that the guards allowed him to enter without inspection.

Ragos already withdrew his testimonies in a separate affidavit dated April 30. He said he was coerced by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to implicate De Lima, something Aguirre denied.

But Dayan is making a similar claim. In his case, he said it was the late House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali who asked him to invent stories, particularly that he got money from alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. Espinosa on April 28 also recanted his previous testimonies, saying the police "coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened" him to pin down De Lima.

"Dahil po sa kalituhan ko at sobrang pressure na nararamdaman ko noong mga panahon na iyon, sabi ko po kayo na ang sumulat na lang kung ano ang sasabihin ko at iyon na lang ang ilalahad kong testimonya sa Kongreso," Dayan said in his affidavit.

[Translation: Out of confusion and intense pressure that time, I told them to just write whatever they wanted me to say and I will give that testimony in Congress.]

Soriano said Dayan "was not assisted by a counsel of his own choice, by a competent counsel" during that time.

Meanwhile, Atty. Rolly Francis Peoro, counsel for De Lima, admits there's no way to corroborate Dayan's allegation against the late lawmaker.

"But this is all consistent with the testimony of Kerwin Espinosa, Rafael Ragos, and now Ronnie Dayan na (that) different members of the government are doing their part to coerce the witnesses against Senator Leila de Lima," Peoro said.

With this series of recantations, the De Lima camp is hoping the court would grant their motion to dismiss her two pending drug cases or at the very least, allow her to post bail.

It was De Lima's first public appearance following her failed reelection bid.

"Salamat po sa suporta, salamat sa dasal," she said on her way out of the Muntinlupa City Justice Hall to return to her detention facility at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. "Magdasal tayo lagi, magdasal tayo lagi para sa ating bayan," she added.

[Translation: Thank you for the support and prayers. Let us always pray for our country.]

Former congressman Erin Tañada, one of the assisting lawyers in De Lima's case, said they're hoping the rule of law will prevail under the next administration.

"I'm sure they will just say 'we'll leave it up to the courts'. Hopefully the courts will decide that there's really no evidence against Sen. Leila de Lima and that she should be acquitted as soon as possible," Tañada said.

The Duterte administration has repeatedly denied any hand in the incarceration of De Lima — a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.