As govt star witness recants, De Lima moves for case dismissal

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
As govt star witness recants, De Lima moves for case dismissal
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 — With the retraction of the government’s star witness against her, Sen. Leila de Lima has moved to ask for the dismissal of her case or for her temporary liberty through bail.

In a Manifestation and Omnibus Motion filed Friday, De Lima through her lawyers asked the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 to dismiss the case against her, or in the interim hold her entitled to bail and set the condition for her provisional release.

Former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael 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 Dayan — but he recanted this in a recent affidavit.

De Lima brought to the court Ragos’ affidavit dated April 30, where he declared that there is no truth to his testimony that he delivered monies to De Lima or her aide Ronnie Dayan in whatever amount.

“With the execution of this 30 April 2022 affidavit of [Ragos] admitting that his testimony against Accused De Lima were all false, and categorically stating that there was never any delivery of money to the Accused, there stands zero evidence against Accused De Lima, and much less any ‘strong one,’” she told the court.

“Accused De Lima respectfully submits that, at this juncture, she is already entitled to the outright dismissal of the charges against her given the utter lack of sufficient evidence to support her conviction; and, at the very least, to immediate release on bail given the utter absence of ‘strong’ evidence of her guilt,” De Lima added.

De Lima has already been acquitted in one case, and she faces another case — with Dayan as co-accused — before Branch 204. She faces another charge before a separate court.

No other witness

De Lima pointed out that based on the charge sheet, Ragos is the only prosecution witness that has any personal knowledge of the supposed delivery of monies.

“Ragos is the one and only witness who supposedly witnessed such receipt. No one else. Not [Jovencio Ablen]. Not the other witnesses. Only Ragos,” she told the court.

She added that when the court junked her Demurrer to Evidence dated Feb. 7, 2021, where she sought dismissal on the case midway trial, the court acknowledged that the deliveries and Ragos’ testimony as the sole basis of the charge.

In the cited court order, Presiding Judge Liezel Aquiatan noted that De Lima and Dayan noted that Ragos and his deputy Jovencio Ablen described her house where the former met Dayan and handed the bag filled with money. Ablen “was with Ragos at the time of the deliveries and he corroborated Ragos’ testimony in his own perspective.

In moving for the dismissal of the case, De Lima added that Ragos’ recent affidavit, where he also said he was coerced by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and other officials including the state prosecution, explains contradictions in this testimony.

“At best, it fully and absolutely proves the innocence of Accused De Lima,” the motion read.

“From the foregoing, Accused De Lima respectfully moves that the case against her be dismissed outright, and that she be immediately released or, at the very least, she be allowed to exercise her constitutional right to bail considering that the testimonies of the witnesses, individually and collectively, clearly manifest that there is no sufficient evidence, let alone strong evidence, of her alleged violation of Section 26(b) in relation to Section 5 and Section 3(jj) of R.A. 9165,” she continued.

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 in charges she have long been insisting are fabricated, but which the Palace has repeatedly denied. She has already been acquitted in one case.

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