Ragos retraction in court buoys hope of De Lima bail
The legal team of former Sen. Leila de Lima expressed hope on Friday that the court hearing her remaining two drug cases will grant her temporary freedom, after former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer in charge Rafael Ragos took the witness stand to formally recant the allegations he made against her about six years ago.
A staunch critic of the human rights record of former President Rodrigo Duterte, De Lima was arrested in 2017 and charged with three counts of drug trafficking, which several groups here and abroad, including US lawmakers, criticized as political harassment.
Should her bail petition remain unresolved, De Lima would be marking her sixth year in jail on Feb. 24. Only then will her legal team file a supplemental motion on her Jan. 27 bail petition—or it could move to have her cases dismissed.
Of the three charges against her, all in connection with alleged drug trafficking at New Bilibid Prison, the first was dismissed in 2021 by Branch No. 205 of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court after it granted her demurrer on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
The last two cases are being heard by Branch No. 204 of the Muntinlupa court.
‘You know what will happen’
“Most likely if … Ragos’ recantation will be [acknowledged] by the court, that’s when we will act on the appropriate motions so that this case will be finally dismissed,” said Boni Tacardon, one of De Lima’s lawyers.
On Friday, Ragos reiterated his retraction in May last year, when he said that he was coerced into making false accusations against De Lima by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and other justice officials.
Ragos had previously claimed being a bagman of De Lima when she was justice secretary, delivering drug money to her home in Parañaque.
According to Tacardon, Ragos testified about Aguirre warning him that “you know what will happen” if he did not do as he was told, while then Justice Undersecretary Raymond Mecate, who was with Aguirre, made the gesture of slitting his throat.
“Because of this, [Ragos became] scared and he agreed with what they wanted,” Tacardon said, recounting the testimony of the former acting BuCor head.
Ragos also said Aguirre kept revising what he should say to make it more credible. For instance, Aguirre wanted Ragos to add more accomplices in his claims against De Lima.
Tacardon said this explains why convicted drug lord Peter Co and inmates Hans Tan and a certain Jordan came up in Ragos’ 2019 testimony before Branch No. 205, which eventually thew out the drug charge against De Lima.
‘No more evidence’
Furthermore, Ragos “strongly denied” his earlier claim that he delivered P5 million to De Lima for her 2016 senatorial campaign. Tacardon noted that Ragos even denied ever meeting with her.
He said his client was “happy” about Friday’s proceedings.
“We always say that the truth will always come out in the end, and it looks like this is [it],” Tacardon said, adding that there is “no more evidence” against De Lima.
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