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MANILA, Philippines – Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos on Friday, June 7, took the witness stand for the first time since the trial of Senator Leila de Lima for drug charges began more than two years ago.
Ragos, who was once a co-accused in the case but has since been turned witness of the Department of Justice (DOJ), told the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Friday that he allegedly delivered millions to De Lima upon the orders of high-profile inmate Hans Tan.
Ragos is currently a director at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), his home agency for 3 decades except for a brief period from August 2012 to March 2013 when De Lima assigned him to the BuCor which supervises the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
Ragos said that on the morning of November 24, 2012, he found a black bag containing gifts and “huge sums of money” on top of his bed at the director’s quarters at the NBP.
Ragos was told that an inmate named Jordan had placed it there. Ragos added that he got a call shortly after from Hans Tan, a high-profile inmate allegedly involved in the drug trade inside Bilbid.
“(Hans Tan) suggested to me to deliver the bag to De Lima and Dayan,” Ragos told the court.
Ragos proceeded to repeat his earlier testimony that he delivered drug money on two occasions to De Lima’s house in Parañaque – on November 24 and December 15, 2012.
De Lima’s lawyers were not able to cross-examine Ragos. The DOJ panel of prosecution wanted the hearing to adopt 3 of Ragos’ affidavits, but since the documents were photocopies, the court had to reset the cross-examination to June 14 until the prosecutors could bring the original documents.
De Lima’s lawyer Boni Tacardon later told reporters they will press on why Ragos, the BuCor chief, would take orders from an inmate.
“Agad-agad, sumunod daw siya for reason na hindi naman niya maipaliwanag nang maayos sa ‘min. Sumunod siya sa utos ng isang inmate. Kaya siguro doon kami magtatanong na rin sa kanya kung bakit ang isang inmate ay kayang utusan ang head ng BuCor,” Tacardon said.
(He immediately followed the orders of an inmate for a reason that he could not clearly explain to us. He followed the orders of an inmate. And that’s what we will ask him, why an inmate can give orders to the head of BuCor.)
Ragos later said that it was his “impression” that the money came from another high-profile inmate Peter Co, coursed through Tan.
Ragos was relieved from his OIC post at BuCor on March 2013. He suspected that it was De Lima’s bodyguard Ronnie Dayan who got him fired.
According to Ragos, Dayan told him in January 2013 to raise drug money for the senator’s 2016 candidacy. Ragos said he refused.
“Dayan is not very happy with the amount of money he gets from BuCor. He has the propensity to amass wealth. He told me kung hindi mo kaya, papalitan kita (he told me if you cannot do it, I will replace you),” Ragos said.
In an earlier hearing, former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong said they had intelligence information that Ragos “was involved in extorting and receiving payola from high-profile inmates.”
Magalong could not say the same for De Lima.
The De Lima camp would be able to cross-examine Ragos on June 14.
“We find the testimony to have many loopholes and we would try to establish that later. Not only that, meron din mga dagdag na kuwento na hindi niya nabanggit noong nagtestify siya sa House at sa kanyang 3 affidavit (there are additional stories that he didn’t mention when he testified at the House and even in his 3 affidavits),” Tacardon said.
The slow pace of De Lima’s trial has taken another hit after Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz opted for early retirement, leaving one of the 3 cases of De Lima without a judge, again.
Corpuz is the second judge handling a De Lima case to retire early, while 4 other judges had inhibited.
Branch 205 Judge Liezel Acquiatan is handling the two other cases against De Lima.
De Lima has been in jail for two years and four months. – Rappler.com