By Hannah L. Torregoza
High-profile drug suspect Kerwin Espinosa surfaced on Wednesday at the Senate investigation on the killing of his father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. where he pinned down Senator Leila de Lima, saying he gave a total of P8 milion to the former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary to help finance her senatorial campaign in the May 2016 elections.
At the joint hearing of the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs and justice and human rights, Espinosa confirmed he gave the money in several tranches through her former bodyguard and driver, Ronnie Dayan.
De Lima, in a televised interview, earlier admitted her relationship with Dayan. This was confirmed by Dayan, himself, in a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 22, after authorities arrested him in La Union.
Espinosa said his meeting took place in Burnham Park, Baguio City sometime in November 19 to 22, 2015, after Dayan agreed he can meet De Lima personally, “but not in Manila” where many people can see them.
He said it was Dayan who first contacted him and asked for his help, saying the former Justice secretary needed funds to finance her senatorial campaign. When he sought the opinion of Peter Co and Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz—two major traders of illegal drugs—both said it was safe to make transactions with De Lima.
“When I called Jaguar, to confirm if it was really true that De Lima was transacting with businessmen into illegal trade, and if they would protect us, he said its true,” Espinosa told senators during the proceedings.
“I also asked Peter Co because he was already my boss, and he told me they have no problem with that as long as we keep the transaction hidden,” he added.
According to Espinosa, Dayan originally asked P2 million as “goodwill money” but he haggled, saying he cannot afford it. They eventually settled to a P700,000 monthly (allowance), but Dayan reportedly keeps on insisting this amount be increased to P2 million.
Espinosa said he first handed the first two batches of the money over to Dayan inside the parking lot of a mall in Pasay City and then inside a restaurant in Dampa near Macapagal Avenue, before he went up to Baguio City to meet the senator.
Espinosa said it was Dayan who arranged the meeting between him and De Lima, and was introduced as “Batman,” his codename in drug transactions.
After handing over to Dayan the money at a parking lot in Burnham Park, he was allowed to pose for a picture with the senator together with his family.
Espinosa, however, said there was no conversation between him and de Lima. Dayan had warned him that de Lima won’t be able to talk to him as there are many people around.
He said he gave the last tranche of the money in February inside a parking lot of of a mall in Pasay City. He returned to Leyte afterwards.
Prior to his transaction with de Lima, Espinosa said he was vacationing in Batangas and was diving at the Anilao Beach Resort when he received a call from Albuera Police Chief Juvie Espenido.
He said it was Espenido who tipped him off about Dayan’s offer.