MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said it would respect the handling of a Muntinlupa court on cases against detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima after a star witness retracted his statements accusing her of involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

In a sworn affidavit dated April 30, former Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) Officer-in-Charge Rafael Ragos retracted his allegations that he delivered money to de Lima.

“I now hereby declare and make known to the whole world that there is no truth whatsoever to any of these affidavits or House and court testimonies, or any other statement made in the media or other investigatory proceedings, including the Senate and the DOJ [Department of Justice], on the delivery of monies to Sec. De Lima or Ronnie Dayan in whatever amount,” Ragos said in his sworn affidavit.

Dayan is de Lima’s former bodyguard.

Acting presidential spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the Palace is leaving the fate of de Lima to the court.

“We respect the independence of the court handling the case of Senator Leila de Lima, particularly in evaluating the evidence presented, such as the statements of former Bureau of Corrections Officer-in-Charge Rafael Ragos,” he said in a press statement.

He also expressed continued trust in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Prosecution Service in performing their duties.

“At the same time, we continue to trust the Department of Justice and the National Prosecution Service in performing their mandates in investigating and prosecuting the charges against the lady senator,” he added.

Andanar also dismissed as “pure hogwash” the recent statement made by de Lima’s legal counsel that Duterte is the “brain” behind the manipulation of the justice system to jail the senator with fabricated testimony.

“Senator De Lima’s case is anchored on her transgressions of our laws and has nothing to do with her political views on the President’s anti-illegal drug campaign or her affiliation with the political opposition,” he said.

He also maintained that de Lima is getting a fair public trial as due process requires.

“The lady senator is currently facing charges before a competent court -- a separate, co-equal and independent branch of government which we respect. Let the wheels of justice keep grinding,” he said.

Ragos, in his affidavit, said he was "coerced" by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to make false allegations against de Lima.

He also claimed he was forced to cooperate with Aguirre and DOJ public prosecutors so he can be dropped as co-accused and turned into witness instead against de Lima and Dayan.

In September 2016, Ragos testified that he personally delivered money from the illegal drug trade to then Justice Secretary de Lima's residence on two occasions in 2012 for her senatorial campaign. He said he transacted with Dayan for her to receive PHP5 million per transaction.

He made this recantation days after self-confessed drug lord Roland “Kerwin” Espinosa retracted his allegations against de Lima.

The Palace earlier downplayed Espinosa’s affidavit, saying that his retraction would have no impact on de Lima’s cases filed in the Muntinlupa courts.

Of the three cases filed by the DOJ against the senator in 2017, De Lima has been acquitted in one and two remain pending before Muntinlupa courts. In one of the two remaining cases, Ragos is key witness against de Lima and Dayan.

De Lima, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunchest critics, has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly conspiring to run a drug trafficking ring inside the NBP in Muntinlupa City during her stint as Justice secretary.

She had repeatedly denied the allegations. (PNA)