By: Leila B. Salaverria and Jeannette I. Andrade March 21,2018 - 12:20 AM


Duterte among those unhappy with dismissal of drug cases vs Lim, Espinosa; asks Aguirre to consider pulse of people

Because of public outrage, and it seems, also the President’s dismay, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued an order canceling his prosecutors’ findings that cleared high-profile suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim of drug charges.

“I issued an order yesterday vacating the dismissal of the case, so much so that there is no such dismissal anymore,” said Aguirre during a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday.

Aguirre said that with his order, the parties in the case can now submit new evidence to strengthen their respective positions.

“The case is now wide open for the submission of all evidence by both parties, and the motion for reconsideration pending before I assumed the power of automatic review is deemed moot and academic,” he added.

Among those unhappy with the prosecutors’ findings was President Rodrigo Duterte, who told Aguirre to take public opinion into consideration.

“The President told me, ‘Vit, while the rules are there, you must, your department, has also to feel the pulse of the people in this kinds of cases, the big ones,” the Justice secretary said.

The new panel of prosecutors he recently formed would handle the review of the former resolution and receive new evidence to be submitted, he said.

The Justice secretary said his order to “vacate” the December 20, 2017 resolution favoring Lim, Espinosa and several others does not scrap the resolution. He said his order is pursuant to his authority to conduct an automatic review.

Automatic review of drug cases started during the administration of President Gloria Arroyo and continued by the next administration. During the time of President Benigno Aquino III, the conduct of automatic review was reverted to the Office of the Justice Secretary to expedite review of drug cases.

Lim’s spokesperson Dioscoro “Jun” Fuentes begged off from issuing a statement on the recent development, saying he has yet to confer with the Cebuano businessman.

“I can’t officially react on this matter for now because I don’t have the authority yet. Once I get a clearance, then let’s talk again,” he said in a phone interview.

“But as it is, Aguirre’s order does not necessarily mean he wants the cases to be filed in court,” Fuentes added.


Aguirre said the “nationwide uproar” over the dismissal of suspected big fish in the drug trade contributed to his decision.

He blamed the outrage on the “premature declaration” that the case had been dismissed even when the matter was still subject to a motion for reconsideration and review.

“Because of this backlash, I had the prosecutors investigated and some of them felt hurt,” he said.

“I understand where they’re coming from, but they should also understand, because of the backlash caused by some people with ill motives, coupled with politics, people had a bad perception,” he added.

The prosecutors’ findings, clearing Espinosa, Lim and several others of drug charges came to light after reporters covering the justice beat were able to get hold of a copy.

This revelation generated anger and criticism that the administration’s war on drugs was only going after the small fry while letting the big fish get away.

Espinosa earlier admitted to his involvement in the drug trade in a testimony before lawmakers. Lim, on the other hand, was tagged as a drug player by the President himself. Lim denied the allegation.

Exonerated along with Espinosa and Lim were convicted drug lord Peter Co, Lovely Impal, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and several others.

The Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group (PNP-DEG) said they had an extrajudicial confession from Espinosa which was excluded from evidence in the case originally filed against him and several others in the DOJ.

The PNP-DEG assured it was ready to support the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in its second stab at making charges stick against Espinosa and his alleged co-conspirators in trafficking drugs.

At a press conference in Camp Crame on Tuesday, PNP-DEG director Chief Supt. Albert Ferro told reporters that Espinosa’s extrajudicial confession was taken in November 2016 and was not directly relayed to the CIDG because the then PNP anti-illegal drug group (AIDG) had been dissolved.

“Unfortunately maybe we (PNP units) did not get the chance to talk. But I think that evidence (extrajudicial confession) is available in the Senate. We submitted that to the Senate,” Ferro explained, saying, that Espinosa, who was arrested on October 17, 2016, gave his extrajudicial confession before he was brought to the Senate to testify.

“Before that he made a confession to a priest. He (Espinosa) requested for a priest … And it was properly taken. It was videotaped. All the necessary requirements for taking an extrajudicial confession was met by investigators so that extrajudicial confession is very much solid,” the PNP-DEG chief pointed out, adding that Espinosa never recanted the statement he gave to the defunct PNP-AIDG.

Ferro stressed, “(An) extrajudicial confession is special because it is free-willing. We did not compel or force him.” He added that

Espinosa was assisted by two lawyers, at the time: Lani Villarino and John Ungab.

According to PNP-DEG legal officer Supt. Enrico Rigor, his counterpart at the PNP-CIDG already has the Senate transcript of Espinosa’s November 23 testimony which is to be submitted as evidence to boost the case against the suspected drug lord and his alleged co-conspirators.

“The Senate transcript is actually the same in toto with the extrajudicial confession of Kerwin because when he was presented (in the Senate), Kerwin had no prepared speech so his extrajudicial confession was presented in toto. It’s the same,” Rigor pointed out.

He added that it was up to the PNP-CIDG to include or exclude Espinosa’s extrajudicial confession in its new evidence against the suspected drug lord and his alleged co-conspirators.

“The PNP-CIDG legal officer has both the Senate transcript and, at the same time, Kerwin’s affidavit. So it is in his hands how to present the case in his filed motion for reconsideration,” Rigor explained. /With reports from Ador Vincent S. Mayol

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TAGS: Aguirre, dismissal, Duterte, Espinosa, Lim, people

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