MANILA — The lawyer of former Sen. Leila de Lima expressed surprise on Friday over a Muntinlupa court's ruling allowing the reopening of the trial in one of the drug cases she is facing, to receive the testimony of a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
"To recall, it was the court who asked the prosecution if they are willing to have the case submitted for decision and they responded positively and immediately. That is why the court immediately set the promulgation of the decision on May 12. The decision to reopen was actually a surprise to the defense team because of that agreement," Atty. Boni Tacardon told ANC Rundown in a phone interview.
"But good enough for us because the court did not move the promulgation and maintained it on May 12 and just to allow the prosecution this opportunity to present Atty. Huerta," he added.
Prosecutors from the Justice Department moved for the reopening of the trial so that they can present Atty. Demiteer Huerta, PAO's officer-in-charge of administrative service.
De Lima's team opposed the motion citing the April 17 agreement in open court that the case would be submitted for resolution.
They also questioned why the motion to reopen the trial was only filed more than a month after that agreement.
Tacardon declined to offer his thoughts as to what Huerta might say on the witness stand.
"Atty. Huerta’s name figured prominently when Deputy Director Rafael Ragos recanted his testimony. He said that it was Atty. Huerta who was with Atty. Rigel Salvador when he first gave his testimony under coercion. And that Atty. Huerta and Atty. Rigel Salvador were there at the Solaire meeting to his surprise," he said.
The Solaire meeting, according to Ragos' affidavit recanting his allegations against De Lima dated April 30, 2022, supposedly happened in September 2016.
It was allegedly attended by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, former National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran, a certain John Vries, intelligence agent Jovencio Ablan, Jr., and a certain Roland Argabioso, aside from the 2 PAO lawyers.
It was during this meeting, Ragos alleged, that he was supposedly forced to execute affidavits implication De Lima.
Ragos initially claimed he and his aide Ablan delivered in two tranches money amounting to P10 million to De Lima’s house in Parañaque in November and December 2012 supposedly to aid her senatorial campaign. De Lima’s co-accused Ronnie Dayan allegedly received the money on behalf of De Lima.
De Lima ran for senator in the 2016 elections, not the 2013 elections.
Ragos later recanted all his allegations against the former senator.
In opposing the reopening of the trial, De Lima’s team asserted there was no new evidence that would be presented against De Lima.
"To the mind of the defense team, Atty. Huerta is not really a new witness. He was there and he even assisted the panel of prosecutors when they were cross-examining Rafael Ragos on his recantation," Tacardon explained.
But Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara granted the prosecution’s motion to reopen the trial in the "utmost interest of justice."