In the heat of the public scrutiny of then Vice President Jejomar Binay’s alleged ill-gotten wealth, the Senate inquiry delving into stories of corruption in Makati City uncovered the information that the supposed illegal transactions worth hundreds of millions of pesos were handled primarily by two trusted Binay aides: Gerry Limlingan, said to be the bagman of the longtime Makati mayor, and the mayor’s secretary, Eduviges “Ebeng” Baloloy.
Throughout the course of the drawn-out Senate hearings, these two never made an appearance despite subpoenas issued and a search mounted for them. Binay, the second highest official of the land, had all the power to bring them into the open to help clear his name; that he seemed uninterested in the prospect contributed hugely to the perception that, at the very least, he had something to hide.
Binay lost in the May presidential election on account of the massive cloud of corruption hanging over him, and the questions linger until now. Limlingan and Baloloy, who could conceivably shed light on the charges still pending against their former boss, have yet to surface.
Sen. Leila de Lima might find herself in a similar situation with her admission that she had, indeed, been in an affair with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan. As it happens, Dayan is missing; from the time the government made its explosive allegations that De Lima had received money from convicted drug lords to bankroll her election campaign and that it was her driver who had served as bagman, Dayan has not been seen or heard from.
The fear to come out and be subjected to hardball pressure from an administration intent on pinning down De Lima is understandable. Dayan is presumably cognizant of the ordeal that his former boss has endured—the shaming and denunciation of her actions on account of her gender, the blatant machismo and misogyny that characterize the attacks against her.
The fate of the drug convicts that were lined up against De Lima in a House investigation was also instructive: Those who agreed to testify were granted immunity from suit; those like Jaybee Sebastian who initially balked at talking found their lives under threat. Sebastian was stabbed in prison in highly suspicious circumstances; days later, out of hospital, he changed his tune and sang against De Lima.
Despite all these, the Department of Justice says it has nothing solid so far against De Lima. Producing Dayan, then, has become paramount, hence the ridiculous grandstanding by the likes of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption. For the charge of contempt at Dayan’s continuing nonappearance in Congress, the group that has otherwise kept silent on the rash of extrajudicial killings in the country has offered a P1-million reward for information on his whereabouts.
The government has made the equally ridiculous leap in logic that De Lima’s admission of her affair with Dayan proves she is indeed guilty of receiving drug money. How on earth does that compute? Until hard, verifiable evidence comes along, linking the two together remains an exercise in conjecture—a desperate and malicious one, in this case, as the government seems fixated on a moralizing tone that demonizes De Lima for her private conduct.
It’s unfortunate that De Lima chose to ascribe that episode in her life to the “frailties of a woman.” That remark, made in a televised interview, does not reflect well on women and their limitless capacity to be strong and responsible in their choices. But now that she has taken the step of admitting a relationship with Dayan, perhaps she can take the next step: to help him come out and say his piece.
The charges against her, involving him as the alleged accomplice, are grave. The public deserves to hear from him as well. Otherwise, rightly or wrongly, she may end up like Binay—forever dogged by doubt.
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