More recantations: Retired cop says raps vs De Lima ‘pure hearsay’ | Inquirer News

More recantations: Retired cop says raps vs De Lima ‘pure hearsay’

Jerry Valeroso

Jerry Valeroso —INQUIRER PHOTO

The prosecution has lost another key witness in the last illegal drug case facing former Sen. Leila de Lima as a retired police general has informed a Muntinlupa City court that he intends to disavow his testimony against her.

Describing the charges against De Lima as “pure hearsay and full of lies,” retired Police Brig. Gen. Jerry Valeroso, who used to work in the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police, wrote a “letter of intent to recant” to Judge Gener Gito of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch No. 206.


In the Dec. 18 letter, a copy of which was made public by De Lima’s lawyer Filibon Tacardon, the former CIDG officer expressed remorse for making false allegations against the former senator and justice chief, saying he would file a formal affidavit upon consulting with his lawyer.


“Because I was disturbed by my conscience, I planned to recant in early 2019. However, fearing for my life and the safety of my family and loved one[s], I lost the guts to do so,” Valeroso wrote.

Bilibid drug trade

Before Valeroso, a dozen other witnesses, including convicted drug lords formerly held at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City and former chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), have publicly retracted their statements that De Lima, as justice secretary, was involved in the illegal drug trade in the state penitentiary.

Last month, De Lima, a staunch critic of the drug war, was freed on bail after nearly seven years in police detention. She is battling the third and last of three drug cases, which her camp insists were fabricated by the previous Duterte administration.

Tacardon told reporters that Valeroso’s testimony involved what he purportedly knew of the CIDG’s undercover investigation on the illicit drug trafficking operations inside Bilibid.

Taking the witness stand in 2018, Valeroso, then with the rank of colonel, said his informant, kidnapping and murder convict Nonilo Arile, had led him to inmate Sam Lee Chua, who allegedly showed him P65 million in his Bilibid quarters that was apparently intended for De Lima.

In 2014, De Lima led a raid of the drug dens in Bilibid, after which the cash went missing, Valeroso claimed.


‘Wrongfully charged’

Valeroso also said he had seen De Lima watching a concert of convicted murderer and drug lord Herbert Colangco within the facility, purportedly establishing their close ties.

The police officer’s testimony in court came two years after he appeared in a 2016 House inquiry on the Bilibid drug trade, where he gave a similar but less detailed account of the events.

In his letter, Valeroso said his decision to recant stemmed from his desire to “set free all accused who were wrongfully charged in this court.”

Among the other witnesses who have retracted their testimonies are former BuCor officer in charge Rafael Ragos, confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, Espinosa’s former aide Marcelo Adorco, and De Lima’s former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.

In October, Arile and another prosecution witness, Rodolfo Magleo, both former policemen, wrote De Lima to say they would also recant their previous claims against her, but the pair had not yet taken any formal action to do so.

In a Nov. 17 letter, seven inmates held at Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro wrote the court saying they also hoped to be given the chance to recant their testimonies against De Lima.

De Lima later sought the transfer of inmates Wu Tuan Yuan, also known as Peter Co, German Agojo, Tomas Doniña, Jaime Patcho, Engelberto Durano, Jerry Pepino, and Hans Anton Tan from Sablayan to Bilibid, after they expressed fears for their safety.

Judicial ‘overreach’

On Wednesday, the Muntinlupa court issued a four-page order granting De Lima’s petition. It also ordered the transfer, on the prosecution’s request, of four other witnesses detained at the Mindoro facility: Arile, Colangco, Noel Martinez and Joel Capones.

But the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it was looking at “legal remedies” to overturn the court’s decision to transfer the witnesses.

Assistant Justice Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano said the court’s move was a case of judicial “overreach,” as only BuCor had authority over the custody of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).

“We will probably hold the transfer first, pending any legal remedies that we may take. Because it’s hard to transfer them back to the [Bilibid] and when we find a legal remedy, we’re going to put them back in Sablayan,” Clavano said.

“We cannot allow the courts to dictate the security arrangements of the PDLs, because BuCor has its own established protocols to ensure the safety of PDLs,” he said.

“It is the position of the DOJ that any judge should refrain from involvement in decisions that could be perceived as political,” the DOJ said in a separate statement.

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READ: 7 more inmates recant testimonies vs Leila de Lima

TAGS: De Lima, drug case, Leila de Lima, Recant, Testimony

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