DOJ upholds charges against De Lima, without intervening in alleged coercion of officials

“I hope it is now clear to the Filipino people that the false charges against me were the product of a long-standing conspiracy involving senior government officials,” Senator Leila de Lima said.

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has downplayed the recantation of his star witnessformer acting head of corrections Rafael Ragos, saying he still has a strong case against jailed Senator Leila de Lima.

Ragos’ affidavit accused senior DOJ officials, led by former secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, prosecutors, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) executives and even prosecutors of being involved in coercion to make him invent false testimony against De Lima.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday, May 2, that the DOJ would not investigate the alleged coercion.

“It will be in everyone’s interest that any investigation into the veracity of Mr. Ragos’ recent allegations be carried out by an independent agency with jurisdiction to do so, in particular the Office of the Ombudsman,” Guevarra told reporters on Monday. Guevarra only took office in 2018 and, to a large extent, is to be spared even by De Lima herself in his attempt to hold his accusers accountable.

Guevarra said they would refer the case to the mediator once Ragos’ affidavit officially reaches the DOJ. “We can’t endorse something that we don’t have in the first place,” Guevarra said.

Contrary to the recantation of the suspected drug lord detained Kerwin Espinosa, Ragos had far more impact because he was a co-defendant turned government witness in the other two drug charges against De Lima. Ragos’ testimony, supplemented by that of his sidekick-turned-enemy Jun Ablen, where both men claimed to have handed over money to De Lima, prompted one of the Muntinlupa courts to proceed with the trial.

But for the DOJ, Ragos’ recantation carries less weight than his earlier testimony, which he also gave in person on the witness stand, reviewed by both prosecution and defense attorneys.

“As a rule, retraction is viewed with disfavour. Ragos’ testimony given solemnly in court carries more weight,” the DOJ said.

“The testimonies of the witnesses presented by the prosecution are sufficient to pin down and prove the charges brought against the defendants Senator Leila M. de Lima and Ronnie Dayan,” added the DOJ.

One of their witnesses was Artemio Baculi Jr., a financial investigator for the Anti-Money Laundering Council, whose the investigation into the financial leads of the Bilibid drug trade showed no link in DeLima.

De Lima was the human rights chief who thoroughly investigated President Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged Davao death squad when the president was still the city’s mayor. Immediately after the drug war death toll began to climb, De Lima launched a Senate investigation into it. In turn, Congress under Duterte held hearings that cornered her in the drug trade.

The hearings, where Ragos and Espinosa began their charges, culminated in De Lima’s jailing in 2017, which the Supreme Court upheld in a ruling called “the most serious injustices ever perpetrated in recent memory in view and on the face of it.” known to the Filipino nation and the whole world”. by then dissenting magistrate Antonio Carpio.

“Truth often bides its time”

De Lima said “it’s only a matter of time” before more people, especially convicted witnesses, also recant and name those who coerced them as Espinosa and Ragos did.

“It is only expected as the mastermind of this dastardly enterprise leaves Malacañang at the end of its calamitous tenure,” De Lima said in a Camp Crame dispatch on Monday.

“Five years too late. But indeed, Truth often bides its time. It waits patiently and is never defeated,” said De Lima, who is campaigning for re-election from prison.

In Pulse Asia’s April survey, De Lima – a veteran lawyer who has served as a human rights chief and justice chief – was far behind the Magic 12 in Senate betting preferred odds, placing only 21-27.

“I hope it is now clear to the Filipino people that the bogus charges of illegal drug trafficking brought against me by the DOJ were the product of a long-running conspiracy that began in September 2016 in the House of Representatives. and in the Senate, involving senior government officials from the legislative and executive branches,” De Lima said.

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