By Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Marlon Ramos March 12,2018


DOJ also drops charges vs Espinosa, others due to weak evidence

Cebuano businessman Peter Lim can now heave a sigh of relief.

He has evaded facing criminal charges for his alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade after the Department of Justice (DOJ) exonerated him in a drug trafficking case filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) last year.

The DOJ resolution, which was dated Dec. 20, 2017, cited weak evidence against Lim and several other high-profile drug personalities including self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., in dismissing the case.

Lim’s camp welcomed the resolution approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan.

“We welcome the ruling. The DOJ has spoken and we hope that the issue will be put to rest,” said Jun Fuentes who was requested by Lim to speak on his behalf.

In tossing out the complaint, the DOJ panel of prosecutors said the weak evidence presented by the CIDG and the “inconsistencies” in the testimony of its lone witness, Marcelo Adorco, prompted them to absolve Lim and his fellow respondents.

Besides Lim and Espinosa, also cleared of violation of Section 26(b) of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2000, were convicted drug lord Peter Co, Lovely Impal, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and several others known only by their aliases.

In their resolution, Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes also reminded the CIDG to refrain from filing cases on the basis “solely of an uncorroborated testimony of an evidently self-serving witness.”

“For if we would base our finding of probable cause on such (a) bare and incredible testimony alone, we would open the flood gates to malicious and unwarranted prosecutions and in so doing, renege on our task to objectively and independently determine the cases that need to be filed in court and the persons who should be indicted for the criminal acts,” they said.

As part of the procedure, the entire records of the case, shall be elevated to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for automatic review.
In a statement, Lim’s thanked the DOJ for clearing him.

“Mr. Peter Lim thanks the DOJ for rendering a just resolution because after all, the pronouncement of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II which found headline in Cebu Daily News on Oct 1, 2016, is correct,” said Fuentes.

Jaguar, Central Visayas’ top drug personality, was gunned down by police in Las Piñas City on June 17, 2016, two weeks before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed his post.

Aguirre earlier said there was a mistake in the July drug matrix released by President Duterte, a “kumpadre (co-wedding sponsor)” of Lim.

The Justice secretary said a cousin of Jaguar, Reynaldo “Jumbo” Diaz, who was arrested by the police in Matnog town, Sorsogon, in September 2016, confirmed that Jeffrey Diaz was the real Jaguar. Fuentes said the case filed against Lim by the CIDG’s Major Crimes Investigation Unit was solely anchored on the testimonies of Adorco, one of alleged henchman of Espinosa.

Adorco claimed that Lim supplied narcotics in “staggering amounts” to Espinosa for more than two years.

On June 4, 2015, Adoro said Lim allegedly met with him and Espinosa in Thailand regarding the delivery of 50 kilos powdered meth at the Cash & Carry parking lot in Makati City three days later. But Fuentes said they surrendered Lim’s passport to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that showed Lim was not in Thailand on June 4, 2015.

“It was proven by Mr. Lim that, at that time, he was admitted for a kidney problem at the Cebu Doctors’ Hospital,” he said.

Lim’s Manila-based lawyers Francis Alex Lopez and Miguel Gabionza, who represented him at the DOJ, were not available for comment.

Although he didn’t handle the case, Cebuano Lawyer Pedro Leslie Salva said they were happy with its outcome.

“At least, his name was cleared and (the) truth came out,” he told the Cebu Daily News over the phone.

Salva said Lim’s family was badly affected by the accusations hurled against the businessman. “We’re grateful to President Duterte for giving him (Lim) the chance to explain and tell the truth. We strongly support the government’s campaign against illegal drugs because these prohibited substances are really not good for the country,” he said.

Asked if he foresaw the outcome of the case, Salva said “Yes, I did.”

“Because for the many years I’ve been representing him (Lim) as one of his lawyers, I never observed him engaged in any illegal activity, including drugs,” Salva added.

President Duterte identified one “Peter Lim” as one of the country’s biggest drug lords.

But the businessman denied that he was the Peter Lim linked by the President to illegal drugs.

The businessman met with the President at Malacañang’s satellite office in Davao City to belie the allegation raised against him.

Later, he was identified by Espinosa as one of his suppliers of shabu (crystal meth).

In July 2017, the CIDG’s Major Crimes Investigation Unit filed a case against Lim, Espinosa and six others for alleged conspiracy to commit the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals.”

The criminal conspiracy, the CIDG said, was continuously existing in various places in Makati City, as well as in Central and Eastern Visayas from February 2013 to August 2015 at the very least.

The CIDG presented as its lone witness, Adorco. But the DOJ prosecutors said the witness’ allegations were “unworthy of consideration” and that his testimony was “rife with inconsistencies and contradictions.”

Humarang and Reyes said Adorco’s claims were contrary to the “standards of human experience and the logical course of reality.”

“Indeed, for an evidence to be believed, it must proceed not only from the mouth of a credible witness, but must be credible in itself as to hurdle the test of conformity with the knowledgeable and common experience of mankind,” the DOJ prosecutors ruled.

It was not the first time that Lim, who owns Hilton Heavy Equipment in Mandaue City, Cebu, was linked to illegal drugs.

He and his brother Wellington were subjected to a congressional inquiry on illegal drugs in 2001.

Two of their former employees — Bernard Liu and Ananias Dy — detailed the businessman’s involvement in illegal drugs during the investigation.

The congressional panel that investigated the Lim brothers found probable cause against Lim and asked the NBI to “fortify” the evidence against the siblings.

The case, however, did not move forward.

In July 2006, Dy was shot dead by two unidentified men at the corner of Salvador and Katipunan Streets in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.

Liu, on the other hand, was already decomposing when found in his house in Talisay City in September 2011. A rope was tied around his neck and crude oil poured over his body.

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