By Jonathan Hicap
The camp of detained senator Leila de Lima has welcomed the testimony of a witness of the prosecution, saying it belied the accusation of the alleged delivery of P10 million to her when she was still justice secretary.
De Lima attended the continuation of her trial at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 on Feb. 14 where she is facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading stemming from her stint at the Department of Justice (DOJ) before she was elected senator.
Peter Co, an inmate at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), testified for the prosecution regarding the alleged campaign funds that were supposedly collected from prisoners for the senatorial campaign of De Lima.
In his affidavit and previous court testimony, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge (OIC) Rafael Ragos, who served in the position from November 2012 to March 2013, said the P10 million was delivered to the director’s quarters at the NBP Reservation where he stayed on two occasions and he found the money in his bedroom, supposedly delivered by an inmate named Jordan.
Ragos said he delivered the money to De Lima’s house in Paranaque on two occasions: P5 million on Nov. 24, 2012, and another P5 million on Dec. 15, 2012. He added that a certain Hans Tan called him on each delivery and told him the money came from Co.
Filibon Tacardon, De Lima’s counsel, said in the hearing that the prosecution failed to explain the two deliveries to Ragos of P5 million each.
“Pero sa tingin namin eh hindi nagtagumpay ‘yung prosecution na baliin o maipaliwanag ni Peter Co yung kanyang testimonya, na ‘yung lumabas na ang kanyang binigay na pera ay para sa kanyang paglaya mula sa bartolina.
(In our view the prosecution did not succeed in breaking Peter Co’s testimony, that it turns out that the money he gave was for his release from his cell.)
“Naging matatag si Peter Co nung sinabi niya na nung nagbigay siya ng dalawang limang milyong piso ay ni-release siya mula sa bartolina. Hindi ‘yun nabago,” Tacardon said.
(Peter Co was steadfast in maintaining that when he gave the two batches of P5 million, he was released from his cell. That did not change.)
In November 2012, a grenade exploded in the NBP maximum security compound that injured several prisoners. As a result, several prisoners were put in solitary confinement at NBP, Manuel Co was relieved as BuCor OIC and he was replaced by Ragos, who was then the deputy director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Tacardon said Co testified that during that period, they delivered money to Ragos “pero inamin niya na si Deputy Ragos ay ‘yung NBI personnel na nag-iimbestiga kung bakit sila nasa bartolina.” (But co admitted that Deputy Ragos was the NBI personnel who was investigating why they were in the cell.)
“So lumalabas tuloy ang interpretasyon namin na malamang, mas malakas ‘yung dahilan na kaya sila nagbigay ng pera kay Deputy Ragos ay hindi para kay Senator De Lima pero para sa kanilang paglaya,” Tacardon said.
(So our interpretation is that most likely, the reason Co gave money to Deputy Ragos is not that it was for Senator De Lima, but for his own freedom.)
He added the witnesses said the money was for De Lima’s senatorial campaign but she did not run for election in 2013. She ran and won in the 2016 election.
During the cross-examination, Tacardon said Co testified that after he gave the second P5 million, he was released from solitary confinement by BuCor officials and was returned to his “kubol,” or makeshift housing at NBP facility.
“Ang eksaktong sinabi niya ay (What he said exactly was) ‘after we delivered the P5 million, we were released,’” Tacardon quoted Co as saying.
A representative from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) also testified to say that he did not investigate De Lima. A Banco de Oro representative also testified but the bank account that was presented was for a Coco Jewelry Shop, which had no links to De Lima, the defense said.