Flip-flopping witnesses liable for perjury, DOJ cautions

By Benjamin Pulta

May 2, 2022, 4:29 pm

<p>Department of Justice <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Department of Justice (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) will take up with prosecutors the move by a former prison official to recant his statements that implicated jailed Senator Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday two conflicting claims under oath potentially make a declarant liable for perjury.

"I have not seen Ragos’ alleged recantation, but note this. When a person willfully declares a false statement under oath and another statement under oath nullifying the other sworn statement, one of these statements is obviously untrue and subjects the declarant to a possible charge of perjury," Guevarra said via text message.

As the case happened before his term, Guevarra said he will discuss with prosecutors concerned the alleged statement of Ragos, a former Bureau of Corrections chief who claimed he was coerced by former DOJ secretary and National Police Commission official Vitaliano Aguirre II to testify against de Lima.

“Considering that the DOJ conducts the preliminary investigation of criminal cases to determine the existence of probable cause, any complaint for perjury against recanting witnesses may be filed by any party in interest, or by the persons before whom the perjurious statement was made, such as the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), the congressional/senate committee, etc.," Guevarra added.

Ragos was the second witness to take back a previous testimony against de Lima after drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa recanted his statements that the senator, also a former DOJ chief, financed her campaign in 2016 using hush money from convicts.

Espinosa, however, is not a witness in the de Lima cases.

He was also dropped from the Witness Protection Program following various offenses, including attempted escape from the NBI detention that resulted in his transfer to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

In a September 2016 sworn statement, Ragos said that he, along with former NBI agent Jovencio Ablen Jr., delivered a black bag containing PHP5 million to Ronnie Dayan, the senator’s former bodyguard, at her residence. (PNA)