Muntinlupa court allows ex-BuCor OIC Ragos to testify in De Lima drug case 

A Muntinlupa court has allowed former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos to testify in the trial of detained former senator Leila de Lima and Ronnie Dayan.

In an order dated Oct. 18, the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 denied the motion for reconsideration filed by government prosecutors who opposed the court’s order recalling Ragos, a prosecution witness, to testify again.

Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos (left) and Ronnie Dayan (Jonathan Hicap)

“All told, the Motion presents no cogent justification for reconsideration of this Court's Order dated 28 September 2022. Accordingly, the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration dated 29 September 2022 is denied for lack of merit,” the court ruled.

The court is hearing case 17-165 filed by the Department of Justice in 2017, which accused De Lima and Dayan of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.

In his original testimonies and affidavits, Ragos, who was a co-accused in the case before he became a government witness, said he delivered P10 million to the house of De Lima in Paranaque in November and December 2012.

However, he recanted all his statements and testimonies in an affidavit dated April 30 this year and said that he did not deliver the money to De Lima.

Dayan, through his lawyer, filed a motion asking the court to recall Ragos to testify for his defense, which the court granted.

In the ruling, the court said the prosecution’s “motion raises no new matters and issues which have not already been considered and passed upon by this Court in its Order.”

“The Court emphasizes that recantations are viewed with suspicion and reservation. The Court looks with disfavor upon retractions of testimonies previously given in court. Mere retraction by a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate the original testimony. To disregard testimony solemnly given in court simply because the witness recants it ignores the possibility that intimidation or monetary considerations may have caused the recantation,” the order stated.

It said Ragos’ recantation must be scrutinized in a trial that will allow the prosecution to cross examine him.

“Before allowing the recantation, therefore, the Court must not be too willing to accept it, but must test its value in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the adverse party to cross-examine the recanting witness both upon the substance of the recantation and the motivations for it,” the court said.

It added, “The supposed recantation, like any other testimony, is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances, including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand.”

“In this case, the Court finds that accused Dayan was able show substantial ground for the recall of Mr. Ragos,” it said.

According to the decision, “This Court recaps that the interests of justice would best be served if the supposed recantation of Mr. Ragos be tested in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the prosecution to cross-examine the recanting witness.”

“Besides, even assuming Mr. Ragos had made a retraction, this circumstance alone does not require the court to disregard or exclude the original testimony solely on the basis of the recantation. The Court should determine which testimony should be given credence through a comparison of the original testimony and the new testimony, applying the general rules of evidence,” the decision read.

The court ruled that “thus, Mr. Ragos must be recalled and presented in court.”