Ex-jail chief who took back drug claims vs De Lima allowed to take witness stand


A MUNTINLUPA court has allowed a former jail chief to take the witness stand after recanting his allegations against a former senator on trial for drug trafficking.

In a four-page order dated Oct. 18, Judge Abraham Joseph B. Alcantara said former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Z. Ragos’ testimony would let the court appreciate the evidence in the case against ex-Senator Leila M. de Lima.

“The interests of justice would best be served if the supposed recantation of Mr. Ragos is tested in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the prosecution to cross-examine the recanting witness,” he said.

“The court should determine which testimony should be given credence through a comparison of the original testimony and the new testimony, applying the general rules of evidence,” he added.

Mr. Ragos on April 30 signed an affidavit saying he had been coerced by a former Justice chief into testifying against one of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s most outspoken critics, who has been in jail since February 2017.

He earlier claimed to have delivered P10 million in drug money to Ms. De Lima’s bodyguard that she allegedly used to finance her senatorial run in 2016. Prosecutors have accused her of abetting the illegal drug trade in the national jail when she was still Justice secretary.

Mr. Ragos’ original testimony had helped in keeping the drug case against the former senator alive. The court had also denied her motion to dismiss the case, citing the ex-jail official’s testimony.

Mr. Ragos in September failed to testify after prosecutors opposed his taking the witness stand.

The judge said a retraction does not require the court to disregard a witness’s original testimony. “The supposed recantation, like any other testimony, is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances, including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand.”

At least three other witnesses have also taken back their allegations about her involvement in the illegal drug trade. One of the three drug charges against Ms. De Lima has been dismissed. Two are pending in court. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Norman P. Aquino

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