Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed suspicion at the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to exclude her co-accused, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos, from the illegal drug trading case against her.
De Lima, who has always maintained her innocence from all the politically-motivated drug charges against her, called on Ragos and other co-accused, Ronnie Dayan, to resist pressures to falsely testify against her.
“It’s suspicious and fishy. By turning Ragos into a witness for the prosecution, it looks like there’s a done deal already, a deal for more lies.” De Lima said at the sidelines of her trial at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 last November 16.
“Alam ko na alam nila (Ragos and Dayan) na inosente ako, at gawa-gawa lang ang mga kaso laban sa akin. Pakinggan sana nila ang kanilang konsensya. Magpakatotoo sila. Magpakalalaki sila. Huwag na silang magsinungaling. Huwag silang magpagamit sa mga kampon ni Duterte,” she added.
The case for illegal drug trading lodged at Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 originated from four separate complaints filed by the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC), represented by Dante Jimenez; Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala; the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); and Jaybee Sebastian before the DOJ.
The Information filed before the Muntinlupa RTC in February 2017 – which made use of perjured testimonies of convicted felons and also Ragos during the Congressional hearing – focused on illegal drug trading allegedly committed from November 2012 to March 2013, while De Lima served as DOJ Secretary.
The prosecutors, however, filed a Motion to Amend Information, changing the original accusation from drug trading to conspiracy to trade illegal drugs, and limiting the relevant period to only two months, November and December 2012. The DOJ is also attempting to drop Ragos as a co-accused, apparently in order to use him as a witness against De Lima.
In his earlier affidavit, Ragos who served as officer-in-charge of BuCor for four months, claimed he personally delivered money allegedly from convicts to De Lima’s residence on two occasions in 2012, 5 million pesos each.
Ragos and the drug convicts claim that the money delivered to then Justice Secretary De Lima in 2012 were for her senatorial bid. However, it may be noted that, at the time, the 2016 elections were still several years and two elections away. De Lima did not run, or even consider running for office, during the 2013 elections.
“Pilit na pilit ang pagtatahi-tahi ng mga kasinungalingan ng mga ‘testigo’ kuno laban sa akin. These claims are as incredible and as clearly false as this administration’s attempts to deny the existence of EJKs.
“They are absolute lies, pure inventions. For the nth time, I declare I have not received, and I will never receive, even a single centavo, from an illegal source, let alone drug money. I’m not involved in, and I have not benefitted in any manner from, the drug trade.
“It’s very evident that these claims are pure concoctions and afterthoughts. Inimbento para lamang patahimikin at sirain ako, bilang ganti sa pag-bangga ko noon at ngayon sa Pangulo at mga kaalyado nito,” De Lima said.
De Lima believes that Dayan and Ragos were either pressured or threatened by Duterte’s operators to testify against her – Ragos during the House inquiry on the Bilibid drug trade and Dayan during the Senate inquiry on Kerwin Espinosa’s alleged drug links.
“Naiintindihan ko rin sila, dahil malamang, tinatakot at ginigipit din sila at ang pamilya nila,” she noted. “Pinagdarasal ko rin sila,” De Lima added.
De Lima drew the President’s ire after she initiated a Senate probe into the unabated spate of extrajudicial and summary killings in the government’s all-out war on drugs barely two weeks since she became a senator in 2016.
Her scheduled arraignment last November 16 at Branch 204 of the Muntinlupa City RTC was rescheduled to January 24, 2018.
To date, she awaits the result of her motion seeking for the inhibition of Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 due to obvious partiality and questionable independence to hear the case brought against her.