Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos testified again on Dec. 2 in the drug trial of former senator Leila de Lima about his recantation absolving her and Ronnie Dayan.
“The hearing went well,” De Lima said as she left the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204, which is handling case 17-165, filed by the Department of Justice in 2017 that accused her and Dayan of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading and getting P10 million in 2012 that supposedly came from the proceeds of the transactions.
In an affidavit last April 30, Ragos recanted all his testimonies and affidavits, saying these were lies. He said De Lima and Dayan did not get P10 million and that he was coerced into testifying against her.
De Lima was a leading critic of then President Rodrigo Duterte.
After the Dec. 2 hearing, lawyer Boni Tacardon, De Lima’s legal counsel, said they were pleased with Ragos’ new testimony as he was consistent.
“In Ragos’ testimony, he was still consistent. Since the so-called ‘Solaire meeting,’ he felt coercion and threat against him and he was forced to be submissive with all the things that he was asked to do,” said Tacardon.
Tacardon said according to Ragos, government lawyers “were putting words into his mouth. He allowed all these things because he could not complain as all the people inside the room and those who were monitoring him were allies.”
He said if Ragos’ recantation is given due weight by the court, the case against De Lima should be dismissed.
After Ragos’ testimony in the drug trial, Tacardon said they are planning to file a petition for bail for De Lima’s provisional liberty.
About De Lima, Tacardon said, “Basically she is okay. Still fighting.”
In his original affidavits and testimonies in 2016, 2017 and 2019, Ragos claimed that he delivered P10 million to the house of De Lima in Paranaque in November and December 2012. The money allegedly came from proceeds of illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
But he recanted all his allegations against De Lima and Dayan in his April 30 affidavit, saying, “All of my allegations to contrary in my affidavits and House and ·court testimonies are fiction, false, and fabricated.
He added that he was “forced execute the above affidavits and deliver the above House and court testimonies against Sec. Lima and Ronnie Dayan due threats of being detained myself for the crime of engaging in the illegal drug trade I did not commit.”
In September 2016, he said, before the House of Representatives conducted a hearing on the illegal drug trade in NBP, he “was ordered former Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre Ⅱ, thru Mr. Danny Yang, to attend a meeting in Solaire Resort and Casino in Parañaque with former National Bureau Intelligence Director Dante Gierran, and John Vries.”
He claimed that during the meeting, “Aguirre interrogated and coerced me to admit something that did not happen. He escorted me to another room where Ablen was, and they showed me a copy of a statement. I asked them: ‘Ano 'yan? Ablen responded: "Ginawa namin Esmeralda yan, may kopya n'yan .”
Aguirre previously denied Ragos’ allegations.
Ragos said he executed “this affidavit freely, voluntarily, truthfully, and without any mental reservation whatsoever, in order to absolve Sec. De Lima and Ronnie Dayan, who are completely innocent, from entirely false and absolutely fabricated criminal charges.”
“I beg the forgiveness of these innocent persons who suffered from my transgression of bearing false witness against them. Ihope they find it in their heart to do so, knowing that I was only forced to transgress against them to save my own life. May God help me,” he said.