After witness retractions, HRW calls for De Lima’s release

7:16 pm on 4 May 2022, Wednesday

The Human Rights Watch has called on Philippine authorities to drop the charges against Sen. Leila de Lima after witnesses retract their allegations against the lawmaker.
HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson that the recent recantation of two witnesses of their testimony that they worked with the opposition senator put the charges against her in dispute.
“The authorities should immediately drop the politically motivated charges and release her, and impartially investigate the witnesses’ claims that they were coerced to give false testimony,” Robertson said.
Confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa first recanted his testimony in a counter-affidavit he filed in a drug case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Like Espinosa, DOJ star witness Rafael Ragos, who earlier testified he gave two tranches of P5 million each to the senator’s aide, executed an affidavit on April 30 claiming he too was coerced to corroborate stories against De Lima.
“Senator de Lima should be included among the casualties of President Duterte’s catastrophic ‘drug war.’ The senator’s imprisonment is among the low points of Duterte’s presidency, and the thousands of families still suffering from his punitive policies would doubtlessly welcome her release,” Robertson added.
The Department of Justice however downplayed the retraction of Espinosa and Ragos, saying the first was not a prosecution witness while they asserted confidence they have enough evidence to pin down De Lima in the second case where Ragos was a witness.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that when Ragos’ affidavit, which also alleged improper behavor among DOJ officials, is submitted to the department, they will refer it to the Office of the Ombudsman for appropriate action.


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