MANILA – (UPDATE, 6:17 P.M) Lawmakers are aghast at how the Department of Justice (DOJ) was able to dismiss the charges and set free a confessed drug lord such as Kerwin Espinosa.
“How a self-confessed drug lord like Kerwin Espinosa can be exonerated by the State, is perplexing. It reflects the sloppiness of the police’s investigation and case build up against these drug lords,” Senator Grace Poe said.
Poe said she was “disturbed” by the DOJ’s decision given that Espinosa admitted in a Senate hearing that he was involved in the illegal drug trade.
Poe noted that, “Acting Prosecutor General [Jorge] Catalan claims that Adorvo’s statements are self-serving and contradictory; this should have prompted them to use the entire machinery of the State’s prosecution arm to gather more testimonial and object evidence, rather than lazily relying on this single witness. Naghanap ba talaga ng ebidensya ang prosekyusyon [Is the prosecution really looking for evidence]?”
Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon also assailed the DOJ decision, saying it is bad for the President’s credibility in pursuing his war on drugs.
“I don’t know what they had in mind [in dismissing cases against Kerwin et al]. Is there a game plan there to use Kerwin as state witness? Sometimes they do that if there’s a bigger case to pursue.”
Gordon thinks Duterte should revisit this case.
“Why wage a drug war, if cases are so easily dismissed against the big-time suspects? I don’t know if the President is aware, but he must be aware of it; I don’t know if there’s a bigger game plan pero dapat talaga ‘yan ay sitahin ng pangulo [but the President should call their attention to it].”.
Gordon dared Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre: “Aba,magpakatotoo ka; unang una importanteng kaso ito, lalo na ang policy ng presidente natin ay labanan ang droga; pangalawa, magpakatunay kang abogado, gamitin mo ang pagka-abogado mo para i-file ang dapat na i-file na kaso [Hey, be true to your cause. This is an important case that tests the president’s policy on drugs; second, prove your mettle as lawyer and file what needs to be filed].”
In a separate statement, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the exoneration of the known drug lords – exonerated with Espinosa were businessmen Peter Lim, Peter Co and 20 others – showed the Duterte administration’s “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 [When one is poor, no questions asked, he is killed. But if he’s a drug lord and a kumpare of the President, there’s due process and he gets cleared],” he said.
“Kapag kay Sen. De Lima, na kalaban sa pulitika, kahit nagka buhol buhol na ang mga scripted na testimonya, sampa agad sa korte para makulong [When it’s Senator de Lima, a political foe, the case is filed in court haphazardly so she gets jailed right away, even if the scripted testimonies get all tied up and bungled],” Trillanes added.
With this, the senator said, Duterte was “just fooling the people” with his so-called drug war.
‘NO PROOF VS DE LIMA, TOO’
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said the dismissal of drug charges against Espinosa and Peter Go Lim meant that the same allegations used as basis for detaining Senator Leila de Lima “won’t hold water.”
“It is now clear that charges against Sen Leila De Lima won’t hold water given such admission by DOJ that they don’t have sufficient evidence against drug personalities they linked to her,” Villarin said.
“Even the testimonies of convicted drug lords in NBP (New Bilibid Prisons) against Senator De Lima can’t be used in court as their words have no value in rules of evidence,” he added.
Baguilat said that while the cases against Espinosa and Lim were separate from that of De Lima’s, the testimony of the confessed druglord [Espinosa] that he gave protection money to then Justice Secretary De Lima was used to support the case against the senator.
Baguilat and Villarin said the cases against De Lima should now be dismissed so that she could be released from jail.
“It’s high time that she be released otherwise DoJ will just be clasping at straws when trial begins. Her continued detention without trial is already a travesty of justice,” Villarin said.
The Liberal Party to which De Lima belongs also weighed in on the issue. “Not one gram of illegal drugs has been found in her possession. The only supposed evidence against her: The testimony of Kerwin Espinosa — who, according to the DoJ, has been cleared of involvement in the illegal drug trade.
“We continue to assert that Leila de Lima is innocent. Her only crime was to hold government to account for human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings. We call for her immediate release,” said LP.
The dismissal of the charges “shows how duplicitous and a complete fraud the bloody drug war is,” said Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
It also weakens the case against De Lima, said Hontiveros, recalling how Espinosa claimed that he gave then Justice Secretary De Lima a total of P8 million for her senatorial campaign through her former driver, Ronnie Dayan.
In Poe’s view, meanwhile, “if this DOJ decision is affirmed by the Secretary of Justice, this would be an insult to the brave policemen who have died in legitimate anti-drug operations.”
The LP also raised in a statement the government’s failure to pin down the real brains behind the smuggling into the country from China P6.5 billion worth of shabu.
These actions — letting guilty cronies go free, while persecuting those who stand against the powers-that-be — are the very hallmarks of authoritarianism, LP concluded.