Prosecutors seek reconsideration of De Lima’s acquittal in second drug case
MANILA, Philippines — Prosecutors have asked the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) to reconsider its May 12 decision acquitting detained former senator Leila de Lima in her second drug case.
“The Prosecution most respectfully prays that the Honorable Court’s Decision dated May 12, 2023, be reconsidered, and a new Decision be rendered declaring both accused guilty of the crime charged (referring to de Lima and her former aide Ronnie Dayan),” read the motion for reconsideration filed before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204.
The prosecutors said the recantation of former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos is not enough to destroy his previous testimony given not only before the court but before the panels of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the media.
“To set aside a testimony which was solemnly taken before a court of justice in an open and free trial and under conditions precisely sought to discourage and forestall falsehood simply because one of the witnesses who had given testimony, later on, changed his mind would simply make a mockery of our criminal justice system,” the prosecutors said.
They added that there are other pieces of evidence to prove all the elements of the crime charged, including the role played by de Lima in the illegal drug trading inside the NBP, including the testimony of Jovencio Ablen Jr.that he accompanied Ragos in delivering the drug money to de Lima’s residence.
Ragos previously accused de Lima of receiving P10-million in two tranches. The money was supposedly delivered by Ragos to her house and received for de Lima by Dayan.
The money was the proceeds of drug transactions inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
In 2022, Ragos disowned his testimony, saying he was only coerced to pin de Lima for the supposed wrongdoing.
In its ruling, the Muntinlupa Court said recantation is viewed with suspicion and reservation because oftentimes, witnesses can be intimidated to withdraw their previous testimonies.
The “rare exception,” the court said, is if there is no evidence sustaining the judgment of conviction other than the testimony of the recanting witness.
As in this case, without Ragos, there is no “crucial link,” according to the court, that would establish the fact that de Lima conspired with inmates in its illegal drug trade.
In a statement, de Lima’s defense team said they would file a motion to expunge the appeal.
“The motion for reconsideration is a mere scrap of paper because the proceedings have already been concluded with finality with the judgment of acquittal,” the defense team said.
“Nothing short of a Supreme Court decision re-opening the case can vest the judge with jurisdiction anew to alter a judgment of acquittal which is final and executory immediately, hence unappealable, whether by MR with the trial court or appeal to a higher court,” they added.