De Lima allies call for her release after Ragos recants drug claims

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 02 2022 07:17 PM | Updated as of May 04 2022 08:52 AM

Sen. Leila De Lima is escorted by police as she emerges from her hearing at the Muntinlupa Trial court, Nov. 16, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
Sen. Leila De Lima is escorted by police as she emerges from her hearing at the Muntinlupa Trial court, Nov. 16, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Allies of Sen. Leila De Lima on Monday once again mounted calls for her immediate release from detention, after a key witness in the illegal drug cases against her recanted his allegations.

Among those who voiced for De Lima's release were Vice President Leni Robredo, De Lima's fellow senatorial bet and lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Robredo said that Rafael Ragos' retraction of his allegations, along with that of self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa days before, only prove the claim that there is no truth to the drug allegations against De Lima.

"Mahigit limang taon nang nakakulong si Senator Leila de Lima, pero kahit isang gramo ng ilegal na droga, kahit isang pahina ng documentary evidence, walang naihain laban sa kanya. Ngayon, pati ang mga testimonyang ginamit na batayan ng pagpapakulong kay Sen. Leila ay isa-isa nang binabawi ng mga nagbigay nito," she said.

(Senator Leila De Lima has been detained for more than five years. But there has not been a single gram of illegal drugs or a page of documentary evidence presented against her. Now, even the testimonies that served as bases for Sen. Leila's detention have been recanted.)

With this development, Robredo said, there is no reason to let De Lima remain under detention.

"Wala nang dahilan para manatili sa piitan si Sen Leila. Dapat na siyang palayain sa lalong madaling panahon," she added.

(There is no more reason for Sen. Leila to remain in detention. She needs to be released immediately.)

Diokno echoed Robredo's call, saying that five years in jail is "too long" for the accusations made against her.

"If Department of Justice (DOJ) officials can intimidate witnesses like Ragos and get away with it, what kind of justice can we expect? Kung nagawa nila ito sa nakaupong senador, paano pa kaya sa ordinaryong mamamayan?" the senatorial candidate said.

(If they can do this to a sitting senator, how much more to an ordinary citizen?)

Diokno also called on Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to place on temporary leave the prosecutors and other government officials who Ragos said forced him into testifying against De Lima.

Zarate, for his part, said that with Ragos' and Espinosa's retractions, "the day of reckoning" is coming.

"Sen. Leila De Lima's unjust incarceration is illustrative of how democratic institutions and processes are bastardized and then weaponized by the now exiting Duterte administration to run after its perceived critics," he said.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, said charges against De Lima must be dropped immediately.

“Senator de Lima should be included among the casualties of President Duterte’s catastrophic ‘drug war,’” said the group's deputy Asia director Phil Robertson. 

“The senator’s imprisonment is among the low points of Duterte’s presidency, and the thousands of families still suffering from his punitive policies would doubtlessly welcome her release,” he added.

On Saturday, Ragos filed an affidavit belying his claims that he had delivered P5 million to De Lima's then-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan in 2012. 

The money, he had claimed, was supposedly De Lima's share in the drug trade.

But Ragos himself said in his affidavit Saturday that the senator "is incapable of doing anything illegal."

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