Aguirre, others liable for ‘fabricated’ raps vs De Lima – Drilon
MANILA, Philippines — Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and other officials who allegedly conspired to fabricate evidence and coerce witnesses into testifying against former Sen. Leila de Lima should not go unpunished, former Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Tuesday.
“We are very happy that the rule of law has prevailed. But who will answer for the suffering De Lima [endured] for the last seven years because of invented and unwarranted charges?” Drilon said in a statement.
De Lima was freed on bail on Monday after almost seven years in police custody on charges of taking bribes from drug lords in New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City when she was justice secretary.
A number of her accusers have retracted their claims against her, saying they had been forced by some government officials to do so.
“For me, those who fabricated these cases, which are all falsified, should be accountable,” Drilon said.
“I repeat. It cannot be just like this. Someone should be liable for this,” he said.
Drilon, also a former justice secretary, noted that Aguirre had been named by former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos as the one who had forced him into falsely implicating De Lima in the illegal drug trade at the state penitentiary when she was still at the helm of the Department of Justice.
Taking the witness stand in October 2022, Ragos recanted his accusations and disclosed that Aguirre had coerced him into signing three prepared affidavits against De Lima in 2016 and 2017.
In response, Aguirre said Ragos was lying. In November 2022, the former justice chief showed reporters a video recording of Ragos supposedly freely giving his statement to the Public Attorney’s Office.
Besides Ragos, other prosecution witnesses who took back their allegations against De Lima include confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa and the former senator’s former aide Ronnie Dayan.
In October, two other accusers, former police officers Rodolfo Magleo and Nonilo Arile, among the 13 criminal convicts who allegedly took part in the Bilibid drug trade, wrote a letter to De Lima expressing remorse and their intention to formally recant their allegations.
De Lima has maintained that then-President Rodrigo Duterte masterminded her indictment in retaliation for her investigation into the vigilante-style executions in Davao City during his mayoralty.
She was also a vocal critic of Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
Two of the three drug cases against De Lima have been dismissed, with the last one pending before Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 206, whose presiding judge, Gener Gito, allowed her to post bail of P300,000 for her provisional liberty.
De Lima walked free late Monday afternoon.
Look into the delay
According to Drilon, Aguirre may be sued for subornation of perjury as he “knowingly and willfully” presented a contrived witness.
“Subornation of perjury is treated as perjury and the accused is punished under Article 183, in relation to Article 17, as principal by inducement,” he explained.
The circumstances surrounding De Lima’s legal battle should also be brought to the Supreme Court so the magistrates could look into the delay in the resolution of her cases, Drilon said.
“This is a positive sign, but we must continue to improve our justice system,” he said.
“The De Lima case should prompt the Supreme Court to take a look at how this case was delayed as thousands of Filipinos have to deal with the sluggish pace of our justice system,” he added.
Sen. Imee Marcos, a Duterte ally, said the court’s decision on De Lima’s bail petition only showed that the “independence of the judiciary is present and true.”
“Our court is a court of law and justice, oblivious of personalities or any political noise. De Lima’s bail… was a testament to that,” Marcos said.