The Two-Faces of the Department of Justice

The Two-Faces of the Department of Justice

October 15, 2022

Rafael Ragos was the Bureau of Corrections OIC Director-General from Nov. 2012 to March 2013.*  Before that, he was with the NBI as Deputy Director for Intelligence.  Both BuCor and NBI are under the Department of Justice.    

On February 17, 2017, the DOJ accused Ragos, de Lima, and Dayan of illegal drug trading (later changed to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading) before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court — Criminal Case 17-165.  For context, Reader, this was when President Rodrigo Duterte publicly vowed early in his Presidency that he would see de Lima “rot in jail.”: “I will have to destroy her. In public.”  “She is the mother of all drug lords”.

Ragos filed a motion for reconsideration with the DOJ asking that he be removed from the charge sheet and be a witness.  The NBI objected, claiming that he was the “most guilty” in the illicit drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. But the DOJ ignored the NBI and withdrew the charges against Ragos. Not only that,  the DOJ reinstated Ragos as Deputy Director in the NBI.

The following is taken from the information filed by the DOJ prosecutors, with the RTC:** 

“[De Lima, Ragos, and Dayan’] did then and there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De Lima and Ragos, with the use of their power, position, and authority demand, solicit and extort money from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison to support the Senatorial bid of De Lima in the May 2016 election; by reason of which, the inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and through the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, did then and there willfully and unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs, and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through Ragos and Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug trading amounting to Five Million (P5,000,000.00) Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five Million (P5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos weekly “tara” each from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison.”

What gets me, Reader, is the ridiculous assertion that de Lima was raising funds for the 2016 senatorial elections. In 2012, everyone else was concentrating on raising funds for the 2013 elections. This, of course, aside from the fact that de Lima was the only secretary of justice who dared conduct a raid on the NBP where she succeeded in removing the luxurious perks enjoyed by the convicted drug lords, and isolating them.

Fast forward to April 30, 2022.  Ragos does a volte face, and executes an affidavit*** recanting any and all affidavits, statements, testimonies (including four on the witness stand of CC 17-165) adverting “to the deliveries of monies to Sec. de Lima or Ronnie Dayan in whatever amount.”  He says that his he was coerced into giving the false affidavits by former DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and others.

This is really a legal bombshell, particularly because when Judge Acquiatan denied the dismissal of CC 17-165, the reason for that dismissal (according to her decision) was because she had given weight to Ragos’ testimonies** that he had brought Php5 million on two occasions to Leila de Lima’s house.    

 What was the DOJ’s response to their star witness’ recantation? I googled and you-tubed like mad.  To summarize, it went something like this: 

1) the retraction was given after such a “glaring delay” that it was “highly suspicious.  However, 

2) they were not worried, because it will not destroy the strength of evidence of the case, and in any event, 

3) it is left to the appreciation of the court to consider his affidavit of recantation.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento on May 3, 2022 was interviewed by ANC.*** He said the prosecution had presented their evidence, and Ragos was only one of the witnesses, so he was confident; also, Ragos’ retraction must reach the court officially, before the court can take cognizance of it; also, jurisprudence shows that the courts do not look too kindly on recantations; and finally, Ragos will have to face cross-examination by the prosecution on his retraction

Oozing with confidence, was Malcontento.

DOJ Secretary Remulla was not so overtly confident as Malcontento.  When he was interviewed, he said that the retractions were “red flags”, and he also said, “let the chips fall where they may”. 

Reacting to the Resolution filed by Senators Pimentel and Hontiveros to withdraw the remaining charges against de Lima, Remulla said that while the Resolution was filed in the light of the recent recantations of key witnesses (Ragos, Ronnie Dayan and Kerwin Espinosa – his red flags), “Ragos has not been presented before the Muntinlupa Court.  Hence, the Department will rely on the sound discretion of the Court on the appreciation of the alleged evidence.”

Pretty clear, isn’t it, Reader? Let the Courts decide.  Ragos must be cross-examined.  But the recantations of the witnesses are like red flags. That’s one face of the Department of Justice.  The face they show the public.

Now comes the Court hearing on Sept. 30, 2022. 

Ragos is there to defend his recantation. That’s what the DOJ wants, right? To cross examine him, and to prove maybe that his retraction is not worth a centavo.  Let the court decide, right?

Wrong.  One day before the Court hearing the DOJ filed a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) on an earlier Court order that would have allowed Ragos to take the stand. Why couldn’t they have filed it earlier? They had five months to do it, for heaven’s sake! The judge granted the MR, gave the defense 5 days to comment on it. The next hearings are on Oct. 28, and Nov.5.

Okay. Why didn’t the 11-person-strong panel of prosecutors just allow Ragos to testify so that they could cross-examine him and break his story, like both the prosecutor-general and Remulla said?  Why didn’t they just go ahead and “let the Court decide”?, again like they said?

And didn’t Malcontento announce that Ragos was only one of their witnesses and his retraction would not destroy the strength of the evidence, etc. etc?   If their evidence is so strong, why are they so insecure?  Lastly, why are they so intent on delaying Ragos testimony, and worse, the release of Leila de Lima?  She has already been incarcerated for almost 5 years and 8 months; how can you sleep?

That’s the second face of the Department of Justice. The face they show the Court.  

Why are you two-faced, Secretary Remulla?

Ragos  earlier stated that it was from the last week of November 2012 to the second week of February 2013.

** Given on June 7, 14, 28, and July 12, 2019.

***  Recantation Affidavit of Rafael Ragos 

Additional Media:  

*** Interview of Malcontento on May 3, 2022 on ANC

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Stephen Slater

Nobody has any sense of professional duty to discontinue the cases against Leila de Lima despite the fact that the prosecutor’s cases have collapsed with the recantations of its own key witnesses.

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