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By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Jessa Mae O. Sotto, Matthew Reysio-Cruz August 14,2018 - 10:25 PM

The dark street leading to the house of businessman Peter Lim in Cebu City taken on Tuesday night, Aug. 14, 2018, hours after a warrant for his arrest was issued by a Makati City Regional Trial Court. No sign of any police activity in the area.

Where is Peter Lim?

The whereabouts of the Cebuano businessman is being raised after Judge Gina Bibat-Palamos of the Regional Trial Court Branch 65 in Makati City yesterday ordered the arrest of the controversial Cebuano businessman over charges of “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.”

In the order, the judge said she found probable cause to proceed with the trial against Lim and his alleged cohorts: self-confessed drug kingpin Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., Marcelo Adorco, and Ruel Malindangan.

The arraignment and pre-trial conference of the case is set on Aug. 28.

“After careful evaluation of the information and the supporting evidence, this court finds that it has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the information and that probable cause exists to hold (the accused) for trial,” Palamos’ order read.

The Department of Justice, on the other hand, asked the Makati City court to issue a hold departure order against Lim should he attempt to flee.

Law enforcers in Cebu on Tuesday said they have yet to receive a copy of the warrant of arrest against Lim.

His spokesperson Dioscoro “Jun” Fuentes has expressed dismay over the recent development, saying he did not see it coming.

“All along, I was thinking that the first dismissal of this case will be sustained by the prosecutors

because there was already a pronouncement (that there were no sufficient evidence against him),” he told Cebu Daily News.

“And here comes his indictment and order of arrest. I don’t think there’s something we can do about that,” he added.

Asked whether it is best for Lim to surrender to authorities, Fuentes refused to make a categorical answer.

“He’s my boss. Whatever his decision is, then that’s it,” he said.

But Fuentes also said that he has lost contact with Lim for about a month now.

Still in Cebu?

The last time Fuentes and Lim communicated was when the latter decided to seek the help of the

National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) after the showroom of his truck dealership firm, Hilton Motors Corp. in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City, was bombed last July 5.

The explosion was the second attack on an establishment owned by the controversial businessman. Four months ago, unidentified men strafed the vehicle of Lim’s younger brother, Wellington, in Cebu City.

Wellington, however, was unscathed when the assailants fired at his bulletproof car.

Fuentes said he believed that Lim, who owns Hilton Heavy Equipment in Mandaue City, is still in Cebu.

“I have not seen him or even talk to him through phone in a month now. But I think he’s still here. I don’t think he left the country,” he said.

Fuentes said he remained hopeful that Lim would eventually be exonerated of the drug charges filed against him.

“May the truth come out. That’s why the court is there to determine the truth,” he said.

“We’re sad with what’s happening now. I think it’s a natural feeling. Not only him or me who is sad.

Anybody who experiences what we go through now would share the same emotion,” he added.

Appeal to law enforcers

“Please be fair. Do not do anything that is beyond the bounds of the law,” Fuentes yesterday enjoined the police.

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said here on Monday that if a court issued an arrest warrant for Lim, “the whole PNP actually is ready” to arrest him.

Lim’s Cebu-based lawyer Pedro Leslie Salva begged off from issuing any statement, saying the businessman’s lawyers in Manila are handling the case.

Cebu Daily News tried but failed to reach Lim’s Manila-based lawyer Francis Alex Lopez on Tuesday.

Supt. Reyman Tolentin, information officer of the Central Visayas police, said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7) will be the lead agency in implementing the arrest warrant against Lim.

“We don’t have it yet. But once we get the warrant of arrest, we will help in looking for Lim,” he said.

While the police are not monitoring Lim’s whereabouts, Tolentin surmised that the businessman is still in Cebu.

For his part, Supt. Lito Patay, director of the CIDG-7, said they would wait for the copy of the warrant of arrest against Lim before making any move.

“Wala namo gipangita kay wala pay warrant. (We’re not looking for him yet because we still don’t have a copy of his arrest warrant),” he said in a phone interview.

Patay, who assumed as CIDG-7 chief only last week, said they were not monitoring Lim yet.

“We can only say that there’s a manhunt only if we have the arrest warrant. But for now, we don’t have it. We’ve not received any orders from our higher ups yet,” he said.

“Kon naa nay warrant, pangitaon nato (Once we get the arrest warrant, we will look for him),” he said.

In a resolution released last Friday, the panel of prosecutors recommended the filing of charges against Lim for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,
particularly for “selling, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of any dangerous drug.”

The DOJ used as a basis the testimony of Espinosa before the Senate where Lim was identified as one of his suppliers of dangerous drugs.

President Rodrigo Duterte publicly called out Lim in 2016, alleging that he was one of the biggest drug lords in the country.

The charges against Lim and company were dismissed last year because of the failure of the CIDG to present sufficient evidence and because of the “inconsistencies” in the testimony of Adorco, the lone witness.

But the decision drew the ire of senators and several individuals particularly since Espinosa has admitted his involvement in the illegal drug trade.

President Duterte also expressed his dismay over the dismissal of the case and threatened to put then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II behind bars if Lim and Espinosa would go scot-free.

Aguirre then issued an order canceling his prosecutors’ findings and ordered a reinvestigation of the case. /with reports from Nestle L. Semilla

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