De Lima to DOJ: Drop charges against me
With the Duterte administration coming to an end, the Department of Justice (DOJ) “can no longer afford to continue being blind” to the facts exonerating Sen. Leila de Lima, the detained senator wrote as she formally asked Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday to drop the charges against her.
In the letter received by the DOJ on Friday, De Lima, who has been incarcerated at Camp Crame Custodial Center since February 2017, asked the justice department to drop the drug charges in light of the retraction of former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Rafael Ragos and other new information.
She also sought confirmation from Guevarra regarding Ragos’ claim that the DOJ’s panel of prosecutors had presented his testimony in court “knowing it to be false and fabricated.”
In an April 30 affidavit, Ragos recanted his earlier testimony linking De Lima to the drug trade at New Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary under the previous administration.
De Lima noted that in the affidavit, Ragos “told the prosecutors that they should not expect him ‘to manufacture perfectly plausible testimony because these are all lies’ and that ‘the allegations against Sen. De Lima never happened’.”
De Lima asked the justice chief to investigate the alleged “orchestration by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of the trial by publicity conducted against me both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and his coercion of DOJ employees to admit falsely that they received money and held bank accounts for my benefit.”
She also asked him to look into the “highly prejudicial and preemptive statements of President Duterte made in public that I am guilty of the allegations manufactured by Aguirre in the House and the Senate, and that he will personally destroy me and make sure that I rot in jail …”
De Lima also cited the recent retraction of alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa who executed a counter-affidavit before the National Bureau of Investigation “where he categorically stated that he was just forced to implicate me in the drug trade out of fear for his own life.”
“As Duterte’s term comes to an end, the DOJ can no longer afford to continue being blind to these facts that clearly indicate a pattern of witness coercion and bribery in order to fabricate drug cases against me and send me to jail,” she wrote Guevarra.
“I trust that this most urgent matter would merit your earnest attention and action,” De Lima said.
But Mr. Duterte on Friday said star witness and former Bureau of Corrections head Rafael Ragos was only bribed by De Lima to recant his testimony against the senator.
The President said, however, that the drug charges against the senator could still prosper unless Vice President Leni Robredo wins as president.
“Overall, we think we can still prosper in the prosecution of De Lima,” he said in an interview with suspected sex offender Pastor Apollo Quiboloy aired on SMNI.
“That’s why if Robredo wins, De Lima will be pardoned,” he added.
Mr. Duterte said he did not believe Aguirre would threaten Ragos to make false statements against De Lima.
“It’s all about money for Ragos. He is already retired and his retirement [pay] would range from P15 million to 18 [million]. No more than that,” he said.
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