MANILA, Philippines – A Muntinlupa court affirmed its decision allowing former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Rafael Ragos to testify and recant his allegations against former senator Leila de Lima.
The four-page decision by Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204, dated October 18, denied the appeal of prosecutors to review the earlier decision allowing Ragos to testify. The latest decision also stemmed from the prosecutor’s appeal to deny Ronnie Dayan’s motion to recall Ragos.
“After a careful scrutiny of the arguments raised in the motion, this court denies the same for lack of merit. The motion raises no new matters and issues which have not already been considered and passed upon by this court in its order,” the court said.
The court added that a motion that had no new arguments would be “useless” in the proceeding.
“A motion for reconsideration grounded on arguments already submitted and found to be without merit may be denied summarily, as it would be useless ritual for this court to reiterate itself. Nevertheless, this court has taken pains to evaluate the prosecution-movant’s arguments on the merits and finds them insufficient to justify the grant of the remedy sought.”
In May this year, Ragos, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 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 big part of the reason the judge in Muntinlupa proceeded with trial.
On September 30, Ragos was supposed to testify in a hearing for De Lima’s case but was disallowed after the prosecutors filed the appeal, blocking the former BuCor chief from testifying.
In its latest decision, the Muntinlupa court said the recantation of Ragos should be tested in court.
“This Court recaps that the interests of justice would best be served if the supposed recantation of Mr. Ragos be tested in a public trial, with sufficient opportunity given the prosecution to cross-examine the recanting witness,” the court said, adding that Ragos’ original testimony would still be considered because they need to determine which testimony should be given credence.
However, the court also noted that recantations are viewed with suspicion and reservation, and that the court “looks with disfavor upon retractions of testimonies previously given in court.”
“Before allowing the recantation, therefore, the court must not be too willing to accept it, but must test its value in a public trial, with sufficient opportunity given to the adverse party to cross-examine the recanting witness both upon the substance of the recantation and the motivations for it,” the Muntinlupa court said.
The Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 added that Ragos’ recantation is subject to a test of credibility, “including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand.”
Ragos was the acting BuCor chief in 2012. Among his allegations was that he delivered money on two occasions to De Lima’s home as instructed by a convict.
His story was part of allegations that De Lima, former justice secretary, enabled drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison and collected money to fund her 2016 senatorial bid.
De Lima, who recently survived a hostage-taking incident inside the Philippine National Police custodial facility, is facing only two more drug charges after she was acquitted in one of her cases in 2021.
The former senator is now back at her facility after spending time in the hospital due to the hostage-taking incident. – Rappler.com