Two government witnesses against Senator Leila de Lima had accused each other of being involved in the prison drug trade, court testimonies showed as the senator's trial continued on Friday.
Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos confirmed in court that he had implicated NBI intelligence agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. in the drug trade. Ablen, meanwhile, admitted last March that he received "tara" from imprisoned drug lords on behalf of Ragos.
Both men had said under oath that they were not involved in the New Bilibid Prison drug trade, even as both claimed to have delivered drug money to De Lima's house on two occasions in 2012.
But Ablen said last March that he had a falling out with Ragos after the then-BuCor OIC accused him of pocketing P1 million from a "Christmas gift" intended for the latter.
In February 2013, Ragos submitted a memorandum to De Lima alleging that Ablen, inmate Froilan Trestiza, and former NBI special investigator John Herra had ordered five kilos of shabu from Peter Co, another drug convict.
When shown a physical copy of the memorandum, Ragos on Friday confirmed he prepared it.
For his part, Ablen said in March that after he had falling out with Ragos, he had prepared a "narration" of illegal activities inside the national penitentiary. The document, which was also to be given to De Lima, made no mention of alleged money deliveries to her residence.
Filibon Tacardon, one of De Lima's lawyers, said Ragos' and Ablen's accusations and counter-accusations not only contradicted their claims of not being involved in illegal drugs but also made them untrustworthy witnesses.
"It also shows that they were the ones who actually benefited from and conspired with the most inmates in the proliferation of the drug trade," Tacardon said in a text message.
"Their credibility is now seriously doubted as clearly they were lying through their teeth."
Ragos was back on the witness stand Friday to answer questions from De Lima's lawyers. He had been among De Lima's co-accused in the drug case against the senator, but the charges against him were dropped as he became a witness against the her in 2017.
He had previously testified that he delivered P5 million to De Lima's house on the instruction of Hans Tan, a Bilibid inmate. Tan allegedly told him in a phone conversation that it was De Lima's share in Peter Co's drug trade.
Ragos had said he found a black bag containing the bundles of money allegedly meant for De Lima in his bedroom at the BuCor.
When asked if he looked into why he had been given the bag, he said that he had merely asked the people in his quarters who it came from. He also said gifts were not unusual at the BuCor, and that he did not investigate ones of little value.
It also appeared during cross-examination that in his first two affidavits, both executed in 2016, Ragos said he did not know the person who called him to order the money delivered.
"So it shows paano siya nagpi-flip-flop, 'yung conflicting statements niya. Importanteng-importante para sa amin 'yan because it shows how unbelievable 'yung kanyang statement," Tacardon told reporters after the hearing.
Asked about the inconsistencies in Ragos' statements, DOJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ramonsito Ocampo said, "I do not want to preempt Director Ragos for the explanation he will be giving during the direct examination.
"I'm sure he will clearly explain the reason why those matters mentioned in the third affidavit were not alleged in the first two affidavits."
De Lima's trial will resume on June 28. — DVM, GMA News