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De Lima 'frustrated' at Guevarra's decision to continue prosecuting her cases

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
De Lima 'frustrated' at Guevarra's decision to continue prosecuting her cases
Sen. Leila De Lima leaves the New Bilibid Prison court in Muntinlupa City on the afternoon March 6, 2018.
Office of Secretary Leila de Lima / Released, file

MANILA, Philippines — Outgoing Sen. Leila de Lima said Thursday that she is frustrated but not surprised at Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's move to follow the panel of prosecutor's decision to continue prosecuting her two drug cases, despite several recantations of allegations against the lawmaker. 

"Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s decision...is plainly a safe and nonchalant gesture. It is devoid of any effort to dig deeper in the wider scheme of things behind my persecution by Duterte," De Lima said in a statement shared by her team on Viber. 

"Frustrating but not at all surprising or unexpected. I guess it was wishful thinking to expect anything different from Sec. Guevarra," she added, claiming that he only based his decision on the assessment of the Justice department's panel of prosecutors. 

She expressed doubt that Guevarra read the retraction of ex-Bureau of Corrections officer Rafael Ragos where he admitted to the panel that his testimony is not perfect because "it was all made up lies and forced upon him by former SOJ (Secretary of Justice) Vitaliano Aguirre." Ragos earlier claimed Aguirre coerced him to make false statements linking De Lima to the drug trade in New Bilibid, and the latter has denied this. 

"It pains me that the very institution that I served faithfully has failed in its foremost, noble task to protect the innocent," De Lima, who formerly served as Justice Secretary for five years until 2015, said.

Days ago, Guevarra said there is what he called good reason to continue the lawmaker's prosecution, following the advice of the panel of prosecutors who reviewed the evidence related to De Lima's cases. 

Three personalities, including a star witness of the government, recanted their allegations against De Lima and admitted that their testimonies were false and were made because they were threatened. 

The first one to retract was confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, followed by prosecution witness Ragos who once testified that he gave P10 million in two tranches to De Lima's aide Ronnie Dayan- but also recanted this. Dayan, who is also co-accused in one case, said there was no such delivery of money to him.

Guevarra said that these three individuals must be presented in court for examination "to ascertain their truthfulness, their alleged recantations have no probative value whatsoever", citing the prosecution panel. 

De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center since February 2017 over conspiracy charges to commit illegal drug trading. She is accused of participating in the proliferation of the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison during the time she was Justice Secretary. 

She has consistently denied the allegations. In 2021, a Muntinlupa court acquitted one of her cases after ruling that the prosecution was not able to present "strong evidence" to show that she was guilty. She still faces two more drug charges.

De Lima ran for another senatorial bid in this year's elections from her detention cell, but did not make it to the so-called "Magic 12."

DE LIMA

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

DOJ

LEILA DE LIMA

MENARDO GUEVARRA

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