Wednesday, March 14, 2018
[caption id="attachment_140124" align="aligncenter" width="1030"] Self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa (pictured) and several others have been absolved of drug-related charges after the Department of Justice dismissed a case filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.[/caption]
MANILA – The Department of Justice dismissed the drug-related charges filed against suspected drug lords Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim and 20 others. It has not found sufficient evidence to warrant an indictment.
But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the dropping of charges does not yet leave the respondents off the hook.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group failed to present evidence that “respondents and other individuals are indeed involved in illegal drug activities,” the DOJ said in a resolution.
Aguirre has yet to affirm or reverse the resolution. He himself acknowledged that the dismissal of the charges was a “slight bump” in the government’s crackdown on drugs.
In a statement Aguirre said the resolution is expected to be reviewed either through “a motion for reconsideration or, ultimately, by way of automatic review” by the Justice department.
“It is likewise a wakeup [call] to all concerned that our efforts, from apprehension to resolution to conviction, must be concerted and thorough,” Aguirre said.
“Suffice it to say that the current status of the case against the respondents Peter Lim, et al., does not mean that it is a final exoneration of their respective criminal liabilities,” he added.
Lim was a Cebu-based businessman suspected to be one of the biggest drug lords in Central Visayas. He was included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “drug list” for allegedly masterminding the drug trade in the region.
Espinosa, on the other hand, has once admitted in a Senate inquiry to being a drug lord in Eastern Visayas.
On Monday the DOJ released a document showing that the drug charges filed against Espinosa, Lim and 20 others were dismissed for “lack of evidence.”
Also absolved were Peter Co, Marcelo Adorco, Max Miro, Lovely Impal, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito, Jermy Amang, and several other personalities known only by aliases.
Sen. Grace Poe was disturbed. “Kerwin Espinosa himself admitted before a Senate inquiry that he was indeed involved in the drug trade,” she said yesterday.
“How a self-confessed drug lord like Kerwin Espinosa can be exonerated by the state is perplexing,” she said. “It reflects the sloppiness of the police’s investigation and case buildup.”
Poe accused the Justice department of being lazy in evidence-gathering.
“Acting Prosecutor General (Jorge) Catalan (Jr.) claims that Adorvo’s statements are self-serving and contradictory,” she said. “This should have prompted them to use the entire machinery of the state’s prosecution arm to gather more testimonials and object evidence rather than lazily relying on [a] single witness.”
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said this “is yet another proof that what Duterte unleashed upon us is a fake drug war.”
“Kapag mahirap, walang tanong-tanong, patay agad. Kapag drug lords at kumpare pa ni Duterte, may due process na, abswelto pa sa kaso,” he said.
Meanwhile the Liberal Party said Espinosa’s “exoneration sheds any pretense of logic.”
“If Kerwin Espinosa is not involved in drugs, then what reason remains for him to bribe Sen. (Leila) de Lima, as he claimed in his testimony?” the party said. “What reason remains for Senator de Lima to be in jail?”
Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, Ozamiz City police director, was disappointed, too.
Espenido was the chief of police of Albuera, Leyte, where Espinosa’s father Rolando Sr. was mayor. He arrested Rolando Sr. and filed drug charges against the Espinosas.
“Kung matandaan natin, he (Kerwin Espinosa) admitted noon that he is a drug lord. Sa Senate, sinabi niya iyon, may transcript diyan,” Espenido told AM radio dzMM.
The police officer was puzzled by how the CIDG gathered evidence for the case.
“I don’t know, baka hindi s-in-ubmit noong [CIDG] iyong mga testimony niya, transcript niya, para basis na drug trafficker si Kerwin Espinosa,” Espenido said./PN