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After Kerwin, DOJ's key witness Ragos recants allegations vs De Lima

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
After Kerwin, DOJ's key witness Ragos recants allegations vs De Lima
Detained Sen. Leila M. de Lima attends the continuation of trial on the third drug case filed against her at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 on Feb. 16, 2021.
Released / Sen. Leila De Lima's office

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2 11:33 a.m.) — A key witness in the trial of Sen. Leila de Lima retracted his allegations that he delivered money to the lawmaker, who has been detained for more than five years for drug charges she has been insisting are fabricated.

Former Bureau of Corrections Officer-in-Charge Rafael Ragos executed an affidavit stating that he was coerced to make false allegations against the opposition lawmaker.

“I now hereby declare and make known to the whole world that there is no truth whatsoever to any of these affidavits or House and court testimonies, or any other statement made in the media or other investigatory proceedings, including the Senate and the DOJ, on the delivery of monies to Sec. De Lima or Ronnie Dayan in whatever amount,” he said.

Ragos earlier testified that he received P5 million on Nov. 24, 2012 and another P5 million on Dec. 15, 2012, from New Bilibid Prison inmates involved in illegal drug trading, which he later handed to De Lima’s aide, Ronnie Dayan.

The former BuCor executive was earlier a co-accused of De Lima in the one of the three cases, but he was dropped from the case after he executed an additional sworn statement which detailed the sources of the money he supposedly delivered to De Lima in 2012.

His retraction came just days after confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa also recanted his allegations against De Lima. But while Espinosa is not a prosecution witness, as said by the Department of Justice, Ragos is, in one case against the senator.

But in his affidavit executed on April 30, Ragos said: “As far as I know and based on my professional relationship with Sec. De Lima, she is incapable of doing anything illegal, much less engage in the illegal drug trade or accept money from Bilibid inmates.”

“All of my allegations to the contrary in my affidavits and House and court testimonies are all fiction, false and fabricated,” he added.

Coercion

Ragos said he was forced to execute affidavits against De Lima and Dayan as he was threatened that he himself would be detained for illegal drug trading if he will not commit. Espinosa, who made a similar retractions against De Lima in a separate affidavit, said he was also coerced by law enforcers to make allegations against the senator.

The former BuCor OIC said he met with then-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II with other NBI executives. In the said meeting in September 2016, Ragos said Aguirre “coerced” him to admit something that did not happen.

He said he was forced to corroborate the statement of Jovencio Ablen, Ragos’ deputy. An affidavit was then executed where De Lima was implicated in illegal drug transactions when she was justice chief.

In this affidavit, Ragos said Aguirre, lawyers including from the Public Attorney’s Office, were present in the December 2016 meeting, prior to the House of Representatives investigation. Aguirre met him again and told him to add Peter Co in his affidavit, and then another one that claimed the fund was used for De Lima’s senatorial campaign. 

He also claimed he was forced to cooperate with Aguirre and DOJ public prosecutors so he can be dropped as co-accused and turned into witness instead against De Lima and Dayan.

“I was forced to add to my earlier affidavits and state that the money delivered to Sec. De Lima and Ronnie Dayan came from Peter Co and was their share in the illegal drug trade. There is no truth to this statement,” Ragos said.

“I only stated this in order to further implicate Sec. De Lima and Ronnie Dayan in the illegal drug trade criminal cases filed against her, upon the instructions of Sec. Aguirre,” he added.

Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar distanced the Palace in Ragos’ recantation and said they continue to trust the DOJ and the prosecution in their mandates.

“We respect the independence of the court. We respect the independence of the court handling the case of Senator Leila de Lima, particularly in evaluating the evidence president, such as the statements of [Ragos],” Andanar said.

De Lima’s cases

Of the three cases filed by the DOJ against the senator in 2017, De Lima has been acquitted in one and two remain pending before Muntinlupa courts.

In one of the two remaining cases, Ragos stands as the key witness against De Lima and Dayan.

When De Lima filed a demurrer to evidence, which challenges sufficiency of prosecution evidence, Presiding Judge Liezel Aquiatan dismissed her motion stating that: “From the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, it is clear that the money were collected as contributions to the fund raising of accused De Lima for her campaign as senator.”

In a ruling in February 2021, the court said De Lima and Dayan must explain the P10 million they received—the allegation that Ragos had just recanted.

LEILA DE LIMA

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