No coercion on Ragos,
ex-DOJ chief insists

Vitaliano Aguirre II

FORMER Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has denied coercing former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos to execute statements and testimonies implicating Senator Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) when she was secretary of the Department of Justice.

In a statement, Aguirre questioned the timing of Ragos’ recantation considering that the May 9 national elections is only a few days away and De Lima, who is facing drug-related cases before the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City, is lagging in the senatorial race.

“Is it possible that Mr. Ragos is being used as a pawn in a last-ditch efforts to gain sympathy from voters?” Aguirre asked.

“As to the motives of Mr. Ragos, we can only surmise. However, I know for a fact he was asking for payment of back pay during the time that he was not receiving his regular pay but he did not receive any,” the former justice secretary said.

He also claimed that Ragos has an axe to grind because his request to be appointed to some government post was ignored.

Aguirre is confident Ragos’s retractions would not be given weight by the court in deciding De Lima’s drug cases.

“Lastly, as a lawyer, allow me to state that it is a time-honored rule that retractions are unreliable unless backed up by incontrovertible evidence. As it is, devoid of any reliable back-up, the statement of Mr. Ragos is a worthless piece of paper,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre admitted being surprised with Ragos’s accusation against him, since the latter voluntarily executed his statements against De Lima.

“Mr. Ragos has always made it clear to me that his statements are true and he was voluntarily offering them to us to correct an injustice and to tell the truth,” Aguirre stressed.

Aguirre noted that Ragos testified under oath twice before the House of Representatives on De Lima’s involvement in the NBP illegal drug trade.

On June 7, 14, 28 and July 12, 2019, Ragos also testified before the Muntinlupa RTC and reiterated his earlier testimony in the House and his allegations against the senator.

Aguirre noted that he left his post as justice secretary on April 5, 2018, or almost a year before Ragos testified before the trial court.

“Evidently, whatever pressure that Mr. Ragos claimed I exerted on him is non-existent by the time of his testimony before the RTC,” Aguirre explained.

He also pointed out that Ragos’s aide and agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Jovencio Ablen, Jr., has maintained his allegations against De Lima.

The DOJ should look into the possibility of reinstating Ragos as co-accused in the drug cases filed against De Lima, Aguirre said.

Ragos’ recantation came several days after confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa recanted his sworn statements accusing De Lima of benefitting from the illegal drug operations in the NBP.

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