Ragos says he was forced to testify vs De Lima

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
Ragos says he was forced to testify vs De Lima
Former Sen. Leila De Lima arrives at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 on September 30, to attend the resumption of the hearing into the drug case filed against her.
Office of Leila De Lima / release

MANILA, Philippines — Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos finally took the witness stand at a Muntinlupa City court yesterday, affirming his testimony that he was coerced by officials in the previous administration into implicating former senator Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade.

Ragos appeared before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 for his testimony, which was delayed after government prosecutors tried to block him from taking the witness stand.

Ragos’ counsel, Michael de Castro, said the former BuCor chief affirmed his latest testimony recanting the allegations against De Lima.

De Castro said his client told the court that he was coerced in September 2015 by former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to sign an affidavit accusing De Lima and the senator’s former security escort, Ronnie Dayan, of involvement in illegal drugs.

“He bared the details on how he was taken, where he was taken and who talked to him,” De Castro told reporters.

“And the most important thing was what was missing – he had no lawyer,” he added.

Tokhang time

Ragos told the court he could not resist Aguirre’s order as he feared for his life.

“Pinirmahan na lang niya at siya naman natakot siya dahil panahon ‘yun ng Tokhang (He signed the order. He was afraid because Tokhang was in effect),” De Castro said, referring to the former flagship anti-drug campaign of the police during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.

De Castro said his client also stated that Aguirre threatened him if he refused to follow his order.

“Andoon ang dating justice secretary at kinausap siya na mag-corroborate o alam mo naman kung ano mangyayari (The former justice secretary was there and he told my client to corroborate or else he knows what would happen),” De Castro said.

Aguirre, in previous interviews with the media, denied that he forced Ragos to testify against De Lima.

Apart from Aguirre, Ragos added lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office also prepared another affidavit, which he also signed in September 2016.

Castro said it is now up to to prosecutors to dispute the latest testimony of his client, noting that Ragos has more to lose with his revelations.

De Lima, who was present during the hearing, was satisfied with Ragos’ testimony, according to her lawyer, Bonifacio Tacardon.

It is up to the judge to weigh which among Ragos’ testimonies he would consider, Tacardon said.

“In his testimony, he insisted he was forced right from the start and the coercion apparently continued,” he said in an interview with reporters.

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