MANILA (UPDATE) — Former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos on Friday failed testify before a Muntinlupa court to affirm his affidavit recanting his allegations against former senator Leila de Lima.
Ragos, accompanied by his lawyer, left past 9 a.m., spending just a little over an hour in court, after the prosecution opposed his taking the witness stand.
According to his lawyer, Michael de Castro, the Department of Justice filed on Thursday night a motion for reconsideration of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara’s order allowing Ragos to testify.
The judge, he said, decided to give the defense 5 days to comment on the motion.
The court is expected to resolve the motion before the next hearings set on October 28 and November 4.
Deputy city prosecutor Darwin Cañete cited procedural rules in opposing Ragos’ testimony.
“The way we see it, he will be traversing new matters based on his affidavit of recantation. With respect to recall of witnesses, it is only to clarify a point on what he already testified to,” he explained.
Ragos claimed in his affidavit that he was merely coerced by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to implicate De Lima.
Aguirre has denied the claim.
“That is something that we have to counter later on,” Senior Deputy Assistant City Prosecutor Rudy Ricamora, Jr. said.
“Tsaka ang bait-bait ni Secretary Aguirre. Yun ang magko-coerce and magti-threaten? Parang wala sa ugali niya. As far as I know him, he’s not the type to threaten or coerce,” Cañete added.
(And besides, Secretary Aguirre is a kind man. Coercing and threatening? I don't think he is the type. As far as I know him, he’s not the type to threaten or coerce.)
De Lima’s lawyers had hoped Ragos’ affirmation of his recantation would deal a big blow to the government’s case against the former senator.
Ragos’ claim that he personally delivered a total of P10 million to De Lima’s former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan allegedly in her house in Parañaque in November and December 2012 was instrumental in keeping the drug case against Dayan and De Lima alive.
A Muntinlupa court denied their demurrer to evidence last year, essentially a motion to dismiss due to insufficiency of prosecution evidence, citing Ragos’ testimony.
The same court denied their bail plea for the same reason.
“Ang affidavit of recantation ni Deputy Director Ragos ay sinasabi niya ito yung katotohanan. Sinasabi niya yung affidavit niya na dati at yung kanyang testimonya ay panay kasinungalingan. So kung yan ay mapagbibigyan ay sa tingin namin ay meron itong magiging epekto sa kaso,” De Lima’s lawyer, Boni Tacardon said.
(In his affidavit of recantation, Deputy Director Ragos tells the truth. He is saying that his former testimony is a lie. So if that will be admitted, it will have an impact on our case. )
The prosecution however downplayed the effect of the recantation.
“Recantation is really frowned upon,” Ricamora said.
Ragos’ lawyer, for his part, said they have filed a motion to expunge or remove from the records all of his prior testimony which were executed without the assistance of an independent counsel.
“Sa pag-file namin ng motion to suppress and expunge yung affidavits ngayon, hindi naman nya kailangang i-affirm kasi lahat ng ano, affidavits na ginawa nya, hindi dapat ebidensya yun dahil nakasaad sa ating Saligang Batas na kapag ikaw, kahit sino sa atin, pumirma ng isang confession nang wala kang abogado na tumutulong sayo at yung abogado na yun dapat independent at competent, pwede yun paburahin” De Castro said.
“Yung recantation nya, ano na lang e, parang additional na lang, parang detalye na lang kung pano ginawa yun,” he added.
(By filing a motion to suppress and expunge the previous affidavits, I think he doesn't need to affirm this because as per our Constitution, confessions signed without an independent and competent lawyer assisting you can be stricken off. His recantation is just like an additional detail.)
De Castro expressed concern for his client’s safety.
Ragos had not been seen in public since he executed an affidavit in April taking back his claims. He was reported to be outside the country for safety reasons.
“Di ko masasabi kung nasa ibang bansa siya, di ko talaga alam. Pero ang alam ko, for sure, napakalaki ng security concerns nya ngayon and malaki ang takot ng client ko,” he told the media in an interview which aired on TeleRadyo.
(I can't say if he's in another country, I honestly don't know. But what I know for sure is that security concerns are important now and my client is afraid.)
“And so minanifest na rin namin yun sa court kanina pero sabi ng judge, for due process, kailangan sagutin, kailangan maghintay,” he added.
(And so we manifested that in court a while ago, but the judge said, for due process, we need to wait. )
Prosecutors however challenged Ragos’ lawyers to file the necessary motions in court to ensure his safety.
Both De Lima and Dayan were present in Friday’s hearing.
"We just have to respect the processes of the Court. We are confident that he will be able to testify,” De Lima said before leaving court.
In the same hearing, Dayan’s son testified that his father was in Pangasinan during the dates when the delivery of drug money was supposedly made to De Lima’s house.
De Lima is also facing another drug case with former BuCor officials and former aides based on testimonies of convicted witnesses.
She has called the cases political persecution.