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DOJ says Ragos retraction questionable, highly suspicious

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday said that the retracted statements of former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos would not destroy the strength of evidence of the drug cases against Senator Leila De Lima and Ronnie Palisoc Dayan.

Ragos' statement was also "highly suspicious" and "questionable"
coming several years after his affidavits to the court, the department added.

In a statement, the DOJ said it is up to the court to consider Ragos’ sworn affidavits dated September 5 and 26, 2016, March 2017, and before the House Committee on Justice “if it can completely” destroy his previous testimonies.”

“He executed said affidavit more than five years after he testified before the Senate in 2016 and other subsequent affidavits executed in 2017.  He even testified in court on 07, 14 and 28 June 2019 and the defense subjected him to an extensive cross-examination,” the DOJ said.

“After his testimony, he appeared before the Senate in September 2019 and again reiterated his dealings with accused De Lima,” it added.

In 2016, Ragos told a Senate hearing that he delivered, along with aide Jovencio Ablen Jr., P5 million in proceeds from the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison to De Lima's house in Parañaque City in 2012.

He also testified then that the kickbacks came from Peter Co and other drug lords to support De Lima's senatorial bid in 2013.

However, the department pointed out that there was no mention of coercion and intimidation, and that Ragos’ delay of recanting his previous statements “are questionable and casts doubt on its truthfulness as well as highly suspicious.”

“Nevertheless, Ragos’ retraction with regard his statements about his alleged transactions with Senator Leila De Lima has minimal effect as Ragos merely contradicted himself with respect to his recantation and will not affect the testimonies of the other witnesses presented before the case in RTC Muntinlupa where he gave his testimony, and where the Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused De Lima was denied,” the DOJ stressed.

“The testimonies of the witnesses presented by the prosecution are enough to pin and prove the charges against accused Senator Leila M. De Lima and Ronnie Dayan,” it added.

As a rule, the agency furthered that recantation is viewed with disfavor and that Ragos’ testimony solemnly given in court is “given more weight.”

“Recanted testimony is exceedingly unreliable, for there is always the probability that it may later be repudiated. Courts thus look with disfavor at affidavits of retractions of testimony given in open court, and are wary or reluctant to allow a new trial based on retracted testimony,” the DOJ argued.

“Indeed, it would be a dangerous rule to reject the testimony taken before the court of justice simply because the witness later on changed his mind for one reason or another, for such a rule will make a solemn trial a mockery and will place the investigation of truth at the mercy of unscrupulous witnesses,” it added.

On the allegation that Ragos was coerced by DOJ officials including former Justice Secretary Aguirre, the DOJ said matter may be referred to the Ombudsman.

“Nevertheless, since there was an allegation of coercion and intimidation, the matter may be referred to the Ombudsman for appropriate action, considering that the claim or subject matter refers to some officials of the Department,” it added.

On Sunday, Ragos retracted his claim that De Lima received millions in proceeds from the prison drug trade from him.

He also said that he was threatened by then-Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre into making false allegations against her.

Ragos apologized to De Lima for testifying against her and said she should be cleared of the drug charges, for which she has been detained since February 2017.—LDF, GMA News