MANILA – Senator Leila de Lima has confirmed the long-running rumor that she was once in a romantic relationship with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan.
Asked why she fell in love with a driver like Dayan given her status, De Lima said in an interview with Winnie Monsod, which aired Monday night on GMA, that 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," she said.
De Lima said, her relationship with Dayan lasted for a “few years” and that the latter had long been separated from his wife. She said she broke up with him before she ran for senator.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte has accused De Lima of having an illicit affair with Dayan.
Up until her admission, De Lima had never denied that she had a relationship with Dayan, who was accused by Duterte of receiving drug money for the former Justice secretary's 2016 senatorial campaign.
In the interview, De Lima said Dayan getting drug money using her name without her permission is "within the realm of possibilities," but she said she would have noticed it if it was indeed true.
"Siguro po ako sa sarili ko 100 percent na wala akong tinatanggap at wala akong papayagan na maging bag man ko [kahit] sino man siya," she said.
Since the controversy erupted, Dayan has not been seen in his residence in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan.
A House of Representatives hearing into the alleged proliferation of the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison during De Lima’s time as Justice secretary also saw several high-profile inmates claiming that the neophyte senator protected the drug trade in exchange for money.
De Lima has repeatedly denied the allegation that she was involved in the drug trade, saying the administration was only out to persecute her for her vocal opposition to President Duterte's controversial war on drugs.
In an earlier interview on ANC, De Lima said that she was “very close” to Dayan.
"I was very close to him, but I wouldn’t want to be publicly speaking about it. It’s too personal for me," she said on ANC's Headstart with Karen Davila.
De Lima and Dayan allegedly had a sex video together, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II once threatened to play it at House hearing. Facing condemnation from both sides of the political fence, the playing of the alleged sex video did not push through.
In the ANC interview, De Lima she does not believe that her former driver and bodyguard received kickbacks from drug lords.
"I did not receive a single centavo from the drug trade in the same manner that I that I did not receive a single centavo from any act of corruption because I am not that person. I am not like that," she told ANC.
De Lima said, Dayan could have built his Urbiztondo house with the help of a sister whose husband works abroad.
She said, she would also give small amounts to Dayan "to assist" him.
"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 added.
In the House hearing, De Lima's former bodyguard, Joenel Sanchez, claimed De Lima and Dayan’s relationship ended in March 2015 after the latter got jealous with a new bodyguard, whom he identified as Warren Cristobal.