MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A self-confessed drug dealer, whose father was killed in an alleged gun fight in prison, has testified before a Philippine Senate investigation that he provided police officials and an opposition senator with millions of pesos in protection money.
Rolando "Kerwin" Espinosa Jr. said Wednesday that he gave 8 million pesos ($160,000) last year to Sen. Leila de Lima's bodyguard. De Lima was a former justice secretary who President Rodrigo Duterte earlier alleged had collected money from drug lords through her bodyguard, who was also her lover, to fund her senatorial campaign.
De Lima, who has initiated an investigation into Duterte's deadly anti-drug campaign, denied receiving money from Espinosa, saying she does not know him.
Human rights groups and Western governments have criticized Duterte's anti-drug campaign that has left more than 4,000 suspected addicts and pushers dead since July.
Espinosa, who was returned to the Philippines last Friday after his arrest in Abu Dhabi, said he dealt only with Dayan, who brought him to meet de Lima briefly in northern Baguio city last November where they had a picture taken together. De Lima has said she was campaigning at that time and many people wanted take a photo with her.
"No, we had no discussion," Espinosa said, referring to de Lima. "Ronnie warned me that she would not speak to me around many people."
De Lima told the hearing that Espinosa's testimony was a fabrication and delivered "under gunpoint, under duress."
"May God forgive you for all your sins and may God forgive you for all your lies about me, and I forgive you," De Lima told the Senate inquiry.
She has said that Duterte was out to destroy her, first earning his ire years ago when as head of the Commission on Human Rights she investigated his suspected links to a death squad that assassinated drug suspects in southern Davao city, where Duterte was a long-time mayor.
Dayan, the bodyguard, was arrested last week after weeks in hiding. Duterte's allies at the House of Representatives presented him to the media late Tuesday, where he said he did collect money from Espinosa on instructions of de Lima.
He said he and de Lima were lovers for seven years. De Lima admitted in a television interview last week that she was once in a romantic relationship with Dayan.
Espinosa's father, town mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., was arrested last month. He had agreed to cooperate with officials but was killed Nov. 5 in an alleged gun fight with police inside his jail cell. Senators investigating the case suspect it was an intentional killing.