Leila de Lima

DOJ prosecutors ask court to reconsider De Lima’s latest acquittal

Jairo Bolledo

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DOJ prosecutors ask court to reconsider De Lima’s latest acquittal

DETAINED. Former senator Leila de Lima attends one of the hearings for her case in September 2022.

Leila de Lima Facebook page

De Lima's camp says they will oppose the prosecutor's motion, asserting that 'acquittal is final and executory immediately, hence unappealable'

MANILA, Philippines – Weeks after a Muntinlupa court cleared former senator Leila de Lima in one of her drug cases, Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors asked the court to reconsider her acquittal.

The panel of prosecutors challenged the decision clearing De Lima through a 91-page motion for reconsideration: “In view of the foregoing, the Prosecution most respectfully prays that the Honorable Court’s Decision dated May 12, 2023 be reconsidered, and a new Decision be rendered declaring both accused guilty of the crime charged.”

In a statement, De Lima’s lawyers said they will oppose the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration.

“The MR is a mere scrap of paper because the proceedings in CC 17-165 have already been concluded with finality with the judgment of acquittal. Nothing short of a Supreme Court decision re-opening the case can vest the judge with jurisdiction anew to alter a judgment of acquittal which is final and executory immediately, hence unappealable, whether by MR with the trial court or appeal to a higher court,” the De Lima camp said.

On May 12, Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 cleared De Lima in one of her remaining drug cases. This means De Lima is now facing only one more charge, since another Muntinlupa court had already cleared her in one of the three charges in 2021.

The court, in its decision, said the retraction of Rafael Ragos, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge, created “reasonable doubt” about the accusations against the opposition leader. In acquitting De Lima, the court said the prosecution failed to prove De Lima’s ties to the alleged drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

In May 2022, Ragos, DOJ’s star witness in the cases against De Lima, retracted his accusations and said he was forced to invent the story upon the instructions of former DOJ chief Vitaliano Aguirre II. His recantation was a big development in De Lima’s case because Ragos is a witness on record and his testimony was a major part of the reason the judge in Muntinlupa proceeded with trial.

Prosecutors’ position

In their motion, the prosecutors said Ragos’ recantation was not able to vitiate or spoil his original testimony pinning De Lima. The prosecutors added there are other pieces of evidence to prove the elements of the case against De Lima, “including the role played by both accused in the illegal drug trading inside the NBP (New Bilibid Prison).”

The prosecution said Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 204 “erred” in ascribing weight on Ragos’ recantation, adding that he “extensively” testified on his original statements against the former lawmaker.

In addition, the DOJ prosecutors said Ragos’ original testimony was corroborated by other witnesses. The prosecutors also mentioned witnesses and inmates Hans Anton Tan and Peter Co, and said the inmates’ testimonies established that the source of the money delivered to De Lima allegedly came from the illegal drug trade.

On Ragos’ recantation, the prosecutors alleged there is no evidence to establish that he was coerced, adding that his inaction for over four years contradicted his allegations about coercion.

“However, other than bare allegations, the defense was not able to establish the same and was even rebutted by the evidence on record,” the prosecutors said.

“As a matter of fact, Ragos was not even able to answer questions during his cross-examination on his recantation with respect to how he was allegedly coerced into coming up with his statements and the information he revealed during his original testimony,” they added. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.