Another DOJ witness vs De Lima linked to prison drug trade

MANILA, Philippines – A government witness against opposition Senator Leila de Lima – National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) intelligence agent Jovencio “Jun” Ablen Jr – was allegedly involved in the drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

This was the claim made by another government witness, former prisons chief Rafael Ragos.

Ragos admitted to this on Friday, June 14, during the continuation of De Lima's trial.

De Lima’s lawyer Teddy Rigoroso showed Ragos a photocopy of a February 2013 memorandum, where Ragos wrote De Lima – who was then justice secretary – that Ablen, another NBI agent named John Herra, and an inmate named Froilan Trestiza traded 5 kilos of shabu on January 29, 2013.

Ragos, an NBI director, was appointed as officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) by De Lima from 2012 to 2013.

“Based on the asset’s report, [the shabu] is now being sold by Herra and Ablen in Pasay City and Bangkal, Makati City, as their respective place of drug trade. It is alarming that these two, Herra and Ablen, still identify themselves as NBIs,” said the memorandum.

DOJ prosecutors objected to the presentation of memorandum and to further questions about it because it was a mere photocopy, but Ragos already admitted to writing and sending the document.

Former BuCor OIC Rafael Ragos (middle), De Lima's co-accused turned DOJ witness, went back to the stand today for cross-examination of the De Lima camp @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/oJ395I7v0G — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) June 14, 2019

In separate testimonies, Ragos and Ablen have admitted to taking drug money on two occasions to De Lima’s home in Parañaque. Ragos, who said the drug money was placed on his bed and that he delivered it to De Lima on the order of an inmate via phone call, asked Ablen to accompany him to Parañaque. The deliveries happened supposedly on November 24 and December 15, 2012. 

“Ang importante ring ma-highlight natin dito is Ablen was denying that he was part of the drug trade. Pero based sa intelligence ni Ragos, apparently he is deeply involved in the drug trade, together with the late John Herra, who everybody believes was involved in the drug trade,” De Lima’s lawyer Boni Tacardon told reporters after the hearing.

(What’s important to highlight here is that Ablen was denying that he was part of the drug trade. But based on Ragos’ intelligence, apparently he was deeply involved in the drug trade, together with the late John Hera, who everybody believes was involved in the drug trade.)

In an earlier testimony, former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief retired police general Benjamin Magalong said that, based on their own intelligence, Ragos was also “involved in extorting and receiving payola from high profile inmates.”

Tacardon said Ragos and Ablen fell out with each other in January 2013. “Ang pinag-awayan nila is supposedly pera, when Ragos accused Ablen na kinupitan siya ng isang milyon,” Tacardon said. (They supposedly fought over money, when Ragos accused Ablen of stealing P1 million from him.)

“I think there is no impact because the memo was made in January 2013 and the period covered by the information is from November 24 to December 15, 2012. It only shows that there is drug trade,” said DOJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ramonsito Ocampo.

LOOK: Rafael Ragos' February 2013 memorandum to De Lima turning the tables on his longtime right hand man Jun Ablen. | via @lianbuan pic.twitter.com/ZapuNCmmNv — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) June 14, 2019

Inconsistent testimonies?

Ragos executed 3 affidavits, two in 2016 and another one in March 2017, when he was already being turned into a government witness. He also appeared in the congressional inquiries.

Rigoroso pointed out that in his two earlier affidavits, and at the House of Representatives, Ragos could not name the person who placed the drug money on his bed and the inmate who called him to instruct that he deliver it to De Lima.

In his 3rd affidavit, he was able to identify a certain Jordan as the person who placed the money on his bed, and the inmate who called him as Hans Tan.

“So it shows paano siya nagpi-flip-flop, 'yung conflicting statements niya. Importanteng-importante para sa amin 'yan because it shows how unbelievable 'yung kanyang statement,” Tacardon said.

(It shows how he flip-flopped, his conflicting statements. That’s very important for us because it shows how unbelievable his statement is.)

Ocampo said they would be able to explain later on.

Rigoroso’s line of questioning forced Ragos to admit that he used government resources, such as a BuCor car, to deliver drug money, and that he accepted gifts as BuCor OIC, which may open him up to charges such as graft and even as simple as violation of Code of Conduct for Public Officials.

"I dont see any reason that some of the answers would incriminate him to any criminal charges.... [His admissions] are beside the point because we are talking here of a person who is testifying on an alleged conspiracy of drug trading,” Ocampo said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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