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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) under outgoing Secretary Menardo Guevarra will not withdraw two charges of conspiracy to commit drug trading against detained senator Leila de Lima.
Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday, June 14, that it was on the advice of prosecutors.
“The panel of prosecutors has advised that, after a thorough review of the evidence already presented as well as evidence still to be presented, there is good reason to continue the active prosecution of the senator,” said Guevarra.
A total of three people have recanted their testimonies against De Lima, two of them witnesses and one a respondent in the court cases. Rafael Ragos, who was the Bureau of Corrections chief during De Lima’s time as justice secretary, was the DOJ prosecution’s star witness until he retracted. Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former bodyguard, was the third to recant.
“As far as the retractions of certain persons are concerned, the prosecution takes the position that until these persons are actually presented in court for examination to ascertain their truthfulness, their alleged recantations have no probative value whatsoever,” said Guevarra.
The prosecution is an attached agency to the DOJ, but it is an independent body. Politically, the justice chief exerts influence over the prosecution. But justice secretaries would have to strike that perfect balance of being the prosecution’s boss while also respecting their independence. Under the Arroyo administration, prosecutors walked out on their justice secretary over a disagreement.
Incoming Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said he would be open to withdrawing the charges if after a study it would turn out to be “the only recourse.”
Guevarra said, “It’s up to Congressman Remulla, but I think he will also be guided by the assessment of the panel of prosecutors who are actually handling the trial of the cases.”
De Lima said “If the review was done by the same DOJ Panel of Prosecutors whom Ragos said were perfectly aware that his testimony was just manufactured and all lies, then the review is worthless.”
“The review should be undertaken by prosecutors who are not tainted by Ragos’s accusation of participating in the manufacture of evidence,” said the former senator.