CA affirms decision not to include ex-BuCor OIC among De Lima’s coaccused
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed its October 2021 decision that dismisses former senator Leila de Lima’s plea to include former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and several high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) as accused in the illegal drug cases filed against her before the Muntinlupa courts.
In a six-page resolution, the CA said de Lima failed to raise new arguments to warrant the reversal of its October 28, 2021 ruling.
At the same time, the appeals court said it is up to the prosecutors to determine who should be prosecuted.
“Again, the prosecution of crimes pertains to the Executive Branch of government whose principal duty is to see to it that our laws are faithfully executed. Courts are not empowered to substitute their own judgment for that of the executive branch,” the CA said in the resolution written by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes from the former Fifteenth Division.
“Differently stated, as the matter of whether to prosecute or not is purely discretionary on his part, courts cannot compel a public prosecutor to file the corresponding information, upon a complaint, where he finds the evidence before him insufficient to warrant the filing of an action in court,” it added.
Under Section 14, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor has the discretion to amend, in form or in substance, the complaint or information without leave of court at any time before the accused enters his plea.
It further stated that any amendment before plea, which downgrades the nature of the offense charged in or excludes any accused from the information, can be made only upon motion by the prosecutor, with notice to the offended party and with leave of court.
“Thus, the right to prosecute vests the public prosecutors with a wide range of discretion – the discretion of what and whom to charge, the exercise of which depends on a smorgasbord of factors that are best appreciated by the public prosecutors,” the CA said.
De Lima went to the Court of Appeals after the Muntinlupa Court denied her motion to reinstate Ragos as one of her co-accused in the illegal drug case (Criminal Case No. 17-165).
The case referred to Ragos as the one soliciting money from high-profile inmates involved in illegal drug operations at the New Bilibid Prison.
Ragos claimed that he delivered more than P10 million in proceeds from the illegal drug trade inside the NBP to De Lima on several occasions in 2012 to support his senatorial bid.
Prosecutors eventually amended the case to drop Ragos to become a government witness.
At the same time, the Muntinlupa Court also denied the former senator’s motion to include prosecution witnesses Herbert Coanggo, Engelberto Duranto, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, Peter Co, Noel Martinez, Reynante Diaz, Jaime Patcho, German Agojo, Hans Antonio Tan, Joel Capones, Rodolfo Magleo and Froilan Trestiza as accused in Criminal Case No. 17-167.
However, the CA maintained that “the decision whether or not to dismiss the criminal complaint against the respondent is necessarily dependent on the sound discretion of the investigating prosecutor and ultimately, that of the Secretary of Justice.”
Early this year, Ragos already recanted his statement that accused de Lima of involvement in the Bilibid drug trade.
DOJ to tap Ombudsman to act on Ragos affidavit
Another witness retracts accusations vs. De Lima says he was coerced
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