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Thursday, April 25, 2024

DOJ to RTC: Reverse acquittal of De Lima

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THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the Regional Trial Court  (RTC) of Muntinlupa City to reverse its decision acquitting former senator Leila de Lima of the conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City  on the ground of “reasonable doubt.”

In a 91-page motion for reconsideration, the panel of prosecutors headed by Provincial Prosecutor Ramoncito Ocampo Jr., questioned the motive behind the recantation of its main witness, former officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Rafael Ragos, which became the basis of the trial court’s dismissal of the drug case.

The prosecution noted that Ragos’s recantation came eight days before the 2022 presidential election, where De Lima was seeking re-election as senator.

“This clearly raises doubt as to the motive behind the sudden retraction,”  the MR stated.

“Verily, the precipitous recantation of  NBI Deputy Director  Rafael Marcos Z. Ragos is coming off as highly suspect and should not  be the sole barometer and guiding threshold in rendering the assailed  judgment,” it added.

In its May 13, 2013 ruling,  Muntinlupa RTC  Branch 204 Presiding Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara gave weight to Ragos’s recantation in  acquitting De Lima and bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.

Without Ragos’s statement, the trial court said, “the crucial link to establish conspiracy is shrouded with reasonable doubt.”

It added that the retraction “created reasonable doubt which warrants the acquittal of both accused.”

Ragos executed an affidavit on September 5, 2016 claiming that in November 2012, as BuCor OIC and together with aide Jovencio Ablen, they delivered a black bag containing P5 million to  De Lima  and her bodyguard Dayan at the former’s residence in Parañaque.

He admitted that they made another delivery of the amount of P5 million  contained in a plastic bag in December 2012 to De Lima and Dayan.

The money, according to Ragos, came from the proceeds of the drug operations of several high-profile inmates inside the NBP.

However, Ragos recanted his statements against de Lima  in his affidavit executed in May 2022.

The panel of prosecutors insisted that Ragos’s recantation was not able to debunk his original testimony given in open court and that there are other pieces of evidence on record to prove De Lima’s guilt.

The panel also cited numerous Supreme Court  rulings holding that recantations of testimonies are viewed with suspicion and hardly given much weight.

“While recantation may give rise to suspicion, such suspicion, however strong, cannot solely serve as a gauge for determining the probative value of the recantation,” the DOJ panel said.

Furthermore, the prosecution pointed out that Ragos “extensively” testified before the court, the Senate and House of Representatives on his original testimony linking De Lima to the illegal drug trade inside the NBP.

The prosecution also questioned the court’s failure to consider the weight of the “corroborative and uncontroverted” testimony of Ablen, who testified that he accompanied Ragos in delivering the alleged drug money to De Lima’s residence in Parañaque City.

The DOJ panel also noted that Ragos failed to show evidence to back his claim that he was coerced to execute his initial affidavits and to testify before the court against the former senator.

“With his stature and if Ragos indeed lived by his office creed, no amount of coercion could have swayed him.

“His empty claim of coercion could not have sacrificed his honor and the honor of his office by asserting untruthful statements which are not expected of a high officer of the premier investigatory arm of the government,” the DOJ said.

Joel R. San Juan

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