MANILA - Driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan claimed his former boss and lover, Senator Leila de Lima, once slapped him in the face for wearing a campaign bracelet of her nemesis, President Rodrigo Duterte.
It was a portent of how just months after the bitterly fought national elections, the former lovers of seven years would find themselves on opposite ends of a bloody war on drugs that has alarmed local and human rights organizations.
Lawmakers on Thursday chuckled as Dayan recalled before a nationally televised hearing how their love affair unraveled as he couriered to the former justice secretary millions of pesos from a man he belatedly learned was a suspected drug lord.
De Lima has dismissed the charge as a fabrication, brought about by her unrelenting criticism of Duterte’s anti-crime campaign from as far back as when the President was mayor of Davao City.
The former human rights chief, whose marriage to Atty. Plaridel J. Bohol II has been annulled, also slammed the “misogyny” of raising her relationship with the married Dayan, whose burly and stoic figure was her constant shadow during her stint as justice secretary.
Critics also claim De Lima has sex videos with Dayan, which both denied.
Women with extra-marital affairs are frowned upon in the conservative Catholic, but at the same time, patriarchal Philippines, where men in high public office flaunt their infidelity.
“Mag-iidol ka na lang din, sira ulo pa (You are picking a mad man for an idol),” Dayan claimed De Lima told him during a visit to Manila this year.
Despite having broken up for roughly a year at that time, Dayan said he was helping De Lima’s senatorial campaign, but was supporting Duterte too. He said he made campaign posters from scratch in his backyard in Pangasinan.
Dayan said he shot back at De Lima: “Walang basagan ng trip (Don’t meddle).”
Dayan, 44, was visibly thinner when he faced the House of Representatives on Thursday, fatigued from months in hiding after Duterte said he was De Lima’s link to detained drug lords to help fund her campaign.
It was “true love” that was as powerful as a Signal 5 typhoon, which De Lima betrayed, Dayan said.
Dayan accused De Lima of dumping him for another bodyguard, Joenel Sanchez.
"Kesyo hindi na daw kami masaya sa pagsasama namin, lagi kasing bangayan, at laging nag-aaway kami," he said.
(She said we were no longer happy, that we were always bickering, always fighting.)
"Kasi po sir una ako tapos naramdaman ko rin na may relasyon sila ni Joenel tapos ito naman si Warren kaya parang nasa isip ko uubusin niya kaming mga security niya," he said.
(I was the first, then I felt she had a relationship with Joenel, then Warren, I thought, she must really have a thing for her security.)
WOMAN IN LOVE
De Lima owned up to the affair one week before Dayan’s arrest, saying it was part of her “frailties as a woman.”
“We became so close. That's it. I trusted him. Siyempre, naano po ang loob ko (I fell for him),” she said in an televised interview with Winnie Monsod.
“Siguro po ako sa sarili ko 100 percent na wala akong tinatanggap at wala akong papayagan na maging bagman ko [kahit] sino man siya,” she said.
(I can speak for myself, 100 percent, that I did not receive money, nor did I allow anyone to be my bagman, whoever he is.)
Dayan said he met De Lima at her private law office in 2007 when he applied for a job as driver-bodyguard. Their professional relationship blossomed into love four months after, at around the same time she was becoming a household name for handling election protests.
Dayan said De Lima's family knew of their relationship, so did his children, who called her TL or Tita Lei.
He said they moved in together in Paranaque City in 2010, after then President Benigno Aquino III appointed her as justice secretary, following a 2-year stint at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) under the Arroyo administration.
De Lima, Dayan said, gave him P2 million to build a house in his hometown of Urbiztondo.
While Dayan has substantiated some of Duterte's allegations against De Lima, the senator has not spoken ill of her former lover.
On Wednesday, De Lima described the accusation of Dayan that she received money from drug lord Kerwin Espinosa as "absolutely untrue."
She insisted that Dayan was being forced to lie against her.
Dayan, just hours after he was arrested in La Union, claimed he turned over money from suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa to De Lima five times in 2014, or 2 years before the 2016 elections.
But De Lima said Dayan was no longer under her employ then.
“So how could I have ordered him to get money from Kerwin? Kaya lang, syempre, and as expected, napilitan na rin si Ronnie magsinungaling,” she added.
In an interview with ANC before Dayan surfaced, De Lima said she was "very close" to her former driver and refused to link him to any wrongdoing.
"As I am telling you, I don’t believe that he is collecting money. Definitely, whether or not he is collecting money, I don’t know about that. I did not know about that," she said.