Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2022 09:45 PM

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman has junked bribery complaints against former senator Leila de Lima and her former bodyguard over an alleged P8 million bribe from self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

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Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

Ombudsman junks bribery raps vs De Lima, Ronnie Dayan

In a ruling dated January 5 but only received by De Lima's camp on Tuesday, the Ombudsman dismissed the direct and indirect bribery raps “for lack of probable cause.”

De Lima is accused of receiving a total of P8 million allegedly through her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan on four occasions:

  • August 2015: P2M - Pasay mall parking lot
  • October 2015: P1.7M - Pasay restaurant
  • November 2015: P2M - Burnham Park in Baguio
  • February 2016: P2.3M - Pasay mall parking lot

The funds were supposedly intended to finance De Lima’s 2016 senatorial bid.

De Lima and Dayan denied the allegations.

The former senator and Justice secretary said Dayan had resigned from the Department of Justice as early as March 2015 and had since stopped reporting to her.

Dayan was also not part of her senatorial campaign team, De Lima added.

She also denied planning a meeting with Espinosa in Baguio.

In ruling that there was no probable cause to charge De Lima and Dayan, the Office of the Ombudsman cited the inconsistent statements of Espinosa and witness Marcelo Adorco.

While Espinosa claimed he gave the P8 million in four tranches to Dayan and not De Lima, Adorco said Espinosa handed the entire money to De Lima when they had lunch at a Pasay restaurant. 

The Office of the Ombudsman also doubted if there was a planned meeting between De Lima and Espinosa in Baguio City, as Espinosa claimed. 

Adorco said he and Espinosa were already in Baguio when De Lima invited Espinosa for lunch at a Pasay restaurant. Espinosa said they went to Baguio City after Dayan instructed him during a second meeting at a Pasay restaurant.

The Office of the Ombudsman ruled that what likely happened in Baguio was a chance encounter between Espinosa and De Lima since the latter was there for her senatorial candidacy.

“The inconsistencies in the testimonies of the complainant’s witnesses cannot be brushed as trivial or inconsequential. The incongruities pertain to material details that cast doubt on the veracity of the accusation that de Lima, through Dayan, had collected bribe money from Kerwin. The testimonies the complainant had presented failed to provide a clear, accurate and consistent narration of facts crucial in determining whether the elements of Direct Bribery and Indirect Bribery exist,” the ruling read.

“In particular, Kerwin and Adorco’s statements were inconsistent on how the alleged P8 million bribe money was delivered, the sequence of the tranches of delivery, and, more importantly, whether de Lima was ever there to directly receive the money from Kerwin. Failing to provide a semblance of clarity on these crucial details, it would be difficult to excite in a reasonable mind a well-founded belief that the respondents had received money from Kerwin in exchange of ‘protection’ for the latter’s illicit drug trade,” it added.

The Ombudsman also questioned how Espinosa could have given substantial amounts of money supposedly as bribe to Dayan “without having met or at least had confirmed directly with de Lima that Dayan was in fact her emissary.”

Espinosa supposedly insisted on meeting De Lima only after allegedly giving P4 million to Dayan. 

The Ombudsman found that, based on testimonies of witnesses, Dayan was not in Baguio when the De Lima and Espinosa meeting supposedly happened because the bodyguard was not part of her campaign team.

The ruling was signed by graft investigation and prosecution officer Daniel Von Evan Panelo.

Espinosa had earlier recanted his claims against De Lima, including the alleged P8-million bribe.

In April this year, Espinosa submitted a counter-affidavit to the DOJ taking back all his allegations before a Senate hearing, saying these were a product of “pressure, coercion, intimidation, and serious threats to his life and family members from the police who instructed him to implicate the Senator into the illegal drug trade.”

In May, Adorco also retracted his allegations against Espinosa and De Lima. 

Adorco, who initially claimed he was Espinosa’s bodyguard and driver, denied that Espinosa was involved in the illegal drug trade.

He also denied knowing De Lima and admitted that the photo of Espinosa and De Lima in Baguio was taken from Facebook and given to him by the police.

Espinosa’s and Adorco’s recantations however were not the bases for the Ombudsman's ruling, which relied on inconsistencies in their statements.

De Lima, a vocal critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, has been detained on illegal drug charges since 2017. 

One of the charges have already been junked while 2 others are still pending.

De Lima has maintained the charges are politically motivated.

Under detention for most of her tenure at the Senate and unable to physically campaign, she lost her reelection bid in May this year.

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