Duterte hopes cases vs De Lima 'can still prosper' after witnesses recant statements

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2022 09:01 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Leila de Lima. ABS-CBN News/file
President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Leila de Lima. ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte hopes that the remaining cases against detained Senator Leila De Lima, his fiercest critic, will still "prosper" even if 2 witnesses recanted their statements regarding her alleged ties to illegal drug syndicates.

Duterte alleged without evidence that former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official Rafael Ragos, a key witness, was bribed into withdrawing his testimony against De Lima. 

"Si Ragos, he was a witness. But, overall, we think we can still prosper in the prosecution of De Lima," Duterte said in a taped interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy aired on Friday. 

"Ngayon, kung ikaw si Ragos, offeran ka ng 15 million, saan kunin ni De Lima yung pera? Drug lords. Siya yung napreso dahil-- tinutulungan na rin siya ngayon, sigurado. Walang tao na magpunta sa korte tapos mag-recant ka ng ganoon after a few years. Pera-pera 'yan," Duterte claimed.

Ragos, in recanting his testimony, said De Lima "is incapable of doing anything illegal". He said he was only threatened by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to make false accusations.

Self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa has also retracted his statements against the senator, saying the allegations against her are not true.

Duterte's acting spokesperson Martin Andanar earlier said Espinosa's move would not affect De Lima's pending cases since he is not a state witness. 

But Duterte also questioned the timing of the retractions because it is election season. He claimed that Vice President Leni Robredo will pardon De Lima and Espinosa if she wins the presidency.

"Yun talaga sa trabaho nila, itong pera and some commitment word. Tignan mo kung nanalo 'yan diyan, pardon 'yan, si Espinosa," said Duterte.

"Kaya kung mananalo 'yan si Leni Robredo, pardon 'yan si De Lima pati yung ano. 'Yan mamili kayo."

Malacañang on Tuesday said De Lima's fate is now with the courts. She still has 2 drugs cases pending before a local court. A case was junked last year.

She has been detained at the PNP Custodial Center since early 2017. The lawmaker recently questioned the Department of Justice for keeping her in detention despite the developments. 

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