Another witness retracts accusations vs De Lima, says he was ‘coerced’ | Inquirer News
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FORCED TO ‘ADMIT SOMETHING THAT DID NOT HAPPEN’

Another witness retracts accusations vs De Lima, says he was ‘coerced’

/ 12:55 AM May 02, 2022
Rafael Ragos. STORY: Another witness retracts accusations vs De Lima, says he was ‘coerced’

Rafael Ragos, former OIC of the Bureau of Corrections. (Photo by DEMPSEY REYES / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Another key witness has recanted his statements accusing Sen. Leila De Lima of involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

In his affidavit, notarized on April 30, 2022, in Pasig, Rafael Ragos, a former officer-in-charge for the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), alleged that then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had “coerced” him into testifying against De Lima.

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De Lima has been in jail since 2017 on drug charges, all of which she had denied.

Ragos made accusations against De Lima on various occasions starting in 2016 at the House justice committee hearing on the NBP illegal drug trade and during case hearings at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204.

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“I just want to clear something that has been on my chest since this has been concealed for so long,” Ragos told a group of select reporters, including this one from the Inquirer, at a media conference over the weekend.

“It doesn’t matter if these people would get mad at me, what matters here is the truth. Those who did wrongdoings would be mad. What do I care?” he added.

Ragos gave the media conference days after self-confessed drug lord Roland “Kerwin” Espinosa retracted his allegations against De Lima.

The government, however, downplayed Espinosa’s affidavit, saying that his recantation would have no impact on De Lima’s cases filed in the Muntinlupa courts.

Unable to do anything

In his affidavit, which is expected to be filed, Ragos revealed that his allegations against De Lima were false. He said that Aguirre, who had met him in several meetings, “interrogated and coerced” him to “admit something that did not happen.”

“I couldn’t do anything back then,” Ragos, who had served as deputy intelligence director at the National Bureau of Investigation, said. “If the secretary of justice himself is coercing you, what can you do? He can do more, more than I can do anything.”

In September 2016, Ragos executed an affidavit wherein he stated that he, along with former NBI agent Jovencio Ablen Jr., delivered a black bag containing P5 million to Ronnie Dayan, the senator’s former bodyguard, and De Lima at the latter’s residence. The money allegedly came from the NBP illegal drug trade.

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That same affidavit included his statement that he delivered a plastic bag containing another P5 million, also to Dayan and De Lima in the same place.

He said in his affidavit back then that he was instructed by an “unknown person” ordering him to deliver those bags to De Lima’s residence and that the cash came from NBP inmate Wang Tuan Yuan alias Peter Co.

In 2016, he appeared before the House justice committee reiterating what he said in his affidavit — that he had been instructed to deliver the money to Dayan, that he had followed the caller’s instruction, and that the money was supposed to support De Lima’s senatorial bid.

Ragos repeated these allegations before the Muntinlupa court in 2019.

But these were all just lies, according to Ragos.

‘No truth whatsoever’

“I now hereby declare and make known to the whole world that there is no truth whatsoever to any of these affidavits or House and court testimonies, or any other statement made in the media or other investigatory proceedings, including the Senate and the DOJ [Department of Justice], on the delivery of monies to Sec. De Lima or Ronnie Dayan in whatever amount,” Ragos disclosed in his affidavit, copies of which were obtained by some reporters.

Ragos said there was never any money delivered to his quarters and then sent to De Lima’s house. He added that, even if there was any cash handed to him, he would have “immediately conducted an investigation and filed a case against the responsible individuals, instead of following the instruction of an unknown caller, NBP inmate Hans Tan, to deliver a package like an ordinary messenger.”

Before the House justice panel in its probe on the NBP drug trade, Ragos disclosed that Aguirre, through a certain Danny Yang, invited him to attend a meeting at a resort in Parañaque City. Among those present were then-NBI Intelligence Director Dante Gierran and two lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office.

According to Ragos, Aguirre “escorted me to another room where Ablen was, and they showed me a copy of the statement. I asked them: ‘Ano ‘yan? [What’s that?]’ Ablen responded: ‘Ginawa namin ni Esmeralda ‘yan. May kopya siya n’yan.”

Asking Aguirre another question, Ragos said the former justice chief told him to also execute an affidavit that would “corroborate” Ablen’s statement.

Ragos quoted Aguirre as saying: “[K]ung hindi, alam mo naman mangyayari.” [Translation: “If you don’t do it, you know what will happen.”]

Ragos also said he was asked to “support and falsely corroborate” the affidavits, statements, and testimonies of Ablen, whom he said also “falsely accused” him of being involved in BuCor’s alleged illegal activities.

Ragos was also forced to add in his earlier affidavits that the money delivered to De Lima and Dayan came from Peter Co and to mention that the cash “was their share in the illegal drug trade.”

“There is no truth to this statement,” Ragos said in his affidavit. “I only stated this in order to further implicate Sec. De Lima and Ronnie Dayan in the illegal drug trade criminal cases filed against her, upon the instructions of Sec. Aguirre.”

He explained that Aguirre called him up to meet in San Juan City, where the latter told him to come up with a new statement to include Peter Co saying no one would believe him if he would claim not to know where the money he supposedly delivered to De Lima and Dayan came from.

Ragos was also told by Aguirre to execute another affidavit to “state explicitly” that the delivered cash was to fund De Lima’s senatorial candidacy in the 2013 midterm elections.

‘Forced to cooperate’

Ragos was once named as one of the respondents, along with De Lima and Dayan, in the case involving the NBP illegal drug trade at the Muntinlupa court.

But he said he was dropped and was “forced to cooperate” with Aguirre and the public prosecutors from the DOJ “by agreeing to deliver all these false testimonies and sign false affidavits against Sec. De Lima and Ronnie Dayan.”

“It’s very apparent, siya [Aguirre] mismo namu-mwersa [it was Aguirre himself who was forcing me],” Ragos told the journalists when asked to clarify if Aguirre had issued threats against him to testify against De Lima.

“Kailangan niyang magpa-guwapo kay Presidente,” Ragos said [Translation: “He has to make himself look good to the President.”]

He also named a certain undersecretary in his affidavit, whom Ragos emphasized to have “persistently pressured me to further implicate and manufacture lies against Senator De Lima…”

Ragos also named two NBI officials “who made my life difficult during my detention.”

Aside from those personalities, he also said one of the prosecutors meeting him advised him: “Mag testigo ka nang mabuti, minomonitor ka ng Malacañang. ” [Translation: “Testify properly. Malacañang is monitoring you.”]

Ragos clarified that there was no mention of President Rodrigo Duterte’s name or any Malacañang officials when he was given that advice.

“This has been very hard on me. Now is the time you feel a little safer for you and your family. So, this has to come out,” Ragos said in the weekend interview.

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TAGS: De Lima drug cases, Leila de Liima, Rafael Ragos, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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