Kerwin Espinosa pleads not guilty to drug raps

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Kerwin Espinosa
Kerwin Espinosa, in this file photo, takes his oath as he appears before a Senate probe into the drug trade. (Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — Alleged Visayas drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa pleaded not guilty Friday, October 20, to the charges filed against him before a Manila trial court.

The criminal charges are related to the drugs recovered from his home in Leyte last year.

Espinosa is the son of the late mayor of Albuera, Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was killed in his jail cell at the Baybay City sub-provincial jail during what police claimed was a shootout when they served a search warrant but is widely suspected to have been a rubout.

The mayor and his son were publicly accused of involvement in the drug trade by President Rodrigo Duterte soon after he assumed office. Following the mayor’s death, Duterte vowed that the policemen involved would not be jailed even if convicted of murder.

Since then, the Department of Justice downgraded the charges against the policemen, mostly from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 8, from murder to homicide, allowing them to post bail and, subsequently, return to active service.

Explaining his plea before Manila Regional Trial Court branch 26, Kerwin said he could not be charged for the seized drugs since he was not present and was, in fact, out of the country during the raid.

He left soon after being named by Duterte but was arrested in the United Arab Emirates and returned to the country.

Espinosa also claimed the evidence against him had been “planted” by the police.

Judge Silvino Pamplona Jr. granted the request of Espinosa for a speedy trial and set weekly hearings with the aim of reaching a verdict by June next year, at the latest.

Another complain against Espinosa is pending before the Department of Justice. This one involves his alleged operations in the Visayas and includes another purported drug lord, Peter Lim of Cebu.