Self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa: I gave ₱8M to De Lima's campaign; senator denies allegation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Self-confessed drug dealer Rolan "Kerwin" Espinosa on Wednesday admitted he gave up to ₱8 million to support Senator Leila de Lima's campaign in the May 2016 elections.

Speaking as a witness at the Senate inquiry into the killing of his father Mayor Rolando Espinosa, the young Espinosa said the funds were disbursed in three tranches to De Lima's then driver and bodyguard, Ronnie Dayan.

Espinosa said he received a call in August 2015 from Dayan, who told him that then-Justice Secretary De Lima needed funds for her senatorial campaign.

Dayan asked him to provide ₱2 million every month, something Espinosa said he could not afford.

"Tumawad ako sa kanya, hanggang sa umabot kami sa ₱700,000 monthly," Espinosa told a jampacked hearing of the joint senate committees on Justice and Human Rights and Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

[Translation: I bargained with him, until we agreed on ₱700,000 monthly.]

But the amount was disregarded after he received another call from Dayan saying he needed a total of ₱8 million before the May 9 elections.

First money drops

Espinosa first met Dayan when he gave the first ₱2 million in a parking lot at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

In another meet-up in a parking lot in Manila on October 2015, where Espinosa turned over another ₱1.7 million, he said he confirmed that the bodyguard's name was "Ronnie Dayan."

"Sa time na iyon nagduda na ako sa kanya na baka hindi nakarating itong pera na ito kay Ma'am Leila," Espinosa said, referring to Sen. De Lima.

[Translation: At the time, I doubted him, that the money would reach Ma'am Leila.]

He requested Dayan for a meeting with De Lima.

"Batman" meets "Ma'am Leila"

Espinosa said they met the senator in Baguio City between Nov. 19 to 22, 2015.

In that meeting, he gave cash to Dayan. He did not disclose the amount as he recalled their encounter in Baguio.

Dayan introduced Espinosa to De Lima: "Ma'am si Batman." Espinosa used the code name "Batman" in his illegal drug transactions.

"O, ano ngayon? Naniniwala ka na? Nakita mo na si Ma'am," Espinosa recounted Dayan telling him.

[Translation: What now? Do you believe me? You've seen Ma'am.]

Espinosa added he and his wife had their photo taken with De Lima.

In February 2016, Espinosa handed over another ₱2.3 million to Dayan, which completed the ₱8 million demanded from him.

Espinosa added that Dayan promised him that he and De Lima would meet after the elections to discuss the "protection" she would give to his illegal drugs business in Eastern Visayas.

But Espinosa said he did not ask for any favor.

The encounter between Espinosa and De Lima in Baguio, the calls and meet-ups between Dayan and Espinosa, and the request for ₱8 million were confirmed by Dayan on Tuesday, when Dayan was presented by police and the House of Representatives to the media.

Read: Dayan: I got money from Kerwin for De Lima

"Kay Kerwin meron. Iyon po ang utos ni Ma'am. Sumusunod lang ako sa utos," Dayan told media, when asked if he had received money for the senator.

[Translation: From Kerwin, there was (money received). That was on orders of Ma'am. I was just following Ma'am's orders.]

Dayan was apprehended by police before noon Tuesday in the province of La Union after search operations lasting more than 40 days.

Read: Justice Department: De Lima's former driver, alleged drug money bagman Ronnie Dayan arrested in La Union

The former driver-bodyguard of the senator, who also admitted to a seven-year affair with De Lima when she was Justice Secretary, was handed over to the House of Representatives who had issued a warrant for his arrest in October.

Read: Dayan admits affair with De Lima for 7 years

Drug lords: "Okay naman 'yang si Ma'am Leila."

In his testimony at the senate hearing, Espinosa said he was skeptical upon receiving the call from De Lima's driver.

"Sa mga katulad naming ilegalista, hindi kami basta-basta nakikipag-usap lalo na sa mga nasa gobyerno," Espinosa said.

He said he called drug lords Jeffrey "Jaguar" Diaz and Peter Co to confirm if De Lima could be trusted.

"Totoo ba 'tong magbibigay tayo ng SOP? Parang hindi ako makapaniwala sa kanya," Espinosa recalled asking them.

[Translation: Is it true that we are going to give SOP? I don't think I can trust him (Dayan).]

"SOP" refers to protection money.

Both Diaz and Co advised him to go on with the transaction. "Okay naman 'yang si Ma'am Leila [Ma'am Leila is okay]," was Co's reply to Espinosa.

Espinosa also told senators that his father, the mayor of Albuera, Leyte who was killed in an alleged shootout in the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail on November 5, was innocent and knew nothing about his drug transactions.

Read: Albuera Mayor Espinosa, 1 other inmate killed in jail cell shootout – CIDG

When the killing of his father happened, the son had been arrested in Abu Dhabi, where he was hiding from Philippine authorities following President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement in August of an all-out war against government and law enforcement officials said to be involved in the illegal drug trade.

Read: PNP Chief: Alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa arrested in Abu Dhabi

Espinosa was repatriated from Abu Dhabi to Manila on November 18.

De Lima: Denial and forgiveness

De Lima, a member of the Senate committee on Justice and Human Rights, was present at the hearing and denied all of Espinosa's allegations.

Read: De Lima in face-off with alleged drug lord and accuser Kerwin Espinosa today

As promised, the embattled senator did not interrogate Espinosa but tagged Espinosa's testimony, as a "nice script."

"May God forgive you for all your sins and may God forgive you for all your lies about me and I forgive you," were De Lima's final words to her accuser.

She said Espinosa's claims were all lies and fabrication, and stood her ground that she never knew Espinosa or had ever met him.

Dayan will face the House of Representatives in a hearing on Thursday.