MANILA - In front of Senator Leila de Lima, a police official recounted Thursday how the lawmaker allegedly accepted P8 million from suspected drug kingpin Rolando "Kerwin" Espinosa, Jr. Albuera town police chief Jovie Espenido of Leyte was initially hesitant to name the personalities connected to Espinosa's alleged narcotics ring who were identified in the affidavit of his slain father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. But De Lima herself prodded Espenido to divulge his knowledge of the drug ring, saying "It is previously announced already because certain media items have already identified certain names. I don't mind that you disclose it because I know that my name is in the number one list, if we are to believe in the pronouncement of [Justice] Secretary Aguirre." Espenido then told senators that the mayor, his wife and four other children had claimed they witnessed De Lima's first meeting with Kerwin at Burnham Park in Baguio City. The Espinosas even took a photo with the lawmaker, he said.
But Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who presided over the hearing as chair of the Public Order and Illegal Drugs Committee, pointed out that it is not uncommon for politicians to have their photos taken with the public. "Sanay na sanay kami na lalakad lang kami d'yan, may magpa-picture. Hindi kaya ganoon ang nangyari kay Senator De Lima na nagkita sila sa Burnham, nagkataong nasa Baguio si Senator De Lima at nagpa-picture ngayon sina Kerwin?" he argued. Espenido replied that police investigators did not rely solely on the photo, but also on an affidavit executed by another son of the mayor, Kevin, who claimed he delivered P8 million to De Lima at Dampa Restaurant in Pasay. "Sa affidavit ni Kevin, 'yung anak, s'ya na ang nagsalaysay ngayon, P8 million ang binigay noong first na magkita sila," the police chief said. (In the affidavit of Kevin, the mayor's son, he said he gave P8 million to De Lima during their first meeting.) He added that De Lima name was included in the Espinosa patriarch's blue and pink books that allegedly contained the names of individuals in their drug payola.
'MAGALING MAGIMBENTO' De Lima, for her part, dismissed her alleged meetings with the Espinosas as mere fabrications. "Ang gagaling ng mga nag-imbento ng mga storya na iyan ha. Nire-research talaga nila na si Senator De Lima, 'pag pumunta sa Baguio, lalo na noong campaign period, dalawang beses pumunta sa Burnham. Itong Dampa na ito, mga a few times ay kumakain talaga doon si Senator De Lima," she scoffed. "Ang gagaling mag-research, ang gagaling din magdagdag at mag-imbento ng istorya." (Those who invented those stories are really good. They did their research that Senator De Lima, whenever she went to Baguio especially during the campaign period, went twice to Burnham. Senator De Lima has also dined a few times at this Dampa. They are good at research, and exaggerating and fabricating stories.)