By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has vowed to not let the “big fish” get away with drug offenses amid a planned review on the controversial dismissal of the drug charges against suspected drug personalities.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the case involving suspected drug lords Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim, and other suspects would be reviewed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and if needed, could still be refiled with additional evidence to warrant a conviction.
“We would like to assure the public that the dismissal is far from being final. It is in fact subject to automatic review by Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and we look forward to review to be made by Secretary Aguirre,” Roque said during a Palace news conference.
“If upon review the DOJ finds reasons to reverse the dismissal, then it will be reversed. If however it is necessary to file additional evidence, we will prompt police authorities to do so. We will not allow a big fish to go away if there is evidence to go after him,” he added.
A panel of DOJ prosecutors recently recommended the dismissal of the drug charges against suspected big-time drug personalities for supposed lack of evidence. The complaint was filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Some opposition groups have criticized the government for its alleged fake war on illegal drugs after exonerating the suspected drug lords.
Roque admitted that the Palace was concerned about the prosecutors’ recommendation but dismissed criticisms that the drug war was just a farce.
He assured that government’s legal battle against the drug suspects is not yet over. He said while the Palace understands the “sentiments and frustration” of the public, he assured that the police could still refile the case and introduce additional evidence.
“We need to be careful that at this stage the evidence will be complete to sustain a conviction when filed before courts,” he said.
“Hindi pa tapos ang boksing. Huwag tayo magkaroon ng conclusion dahil may proseso pa ng pag-aapela. Wala pang pinal desisyon kung kakasuhan o hind [The fight is not yet over. Let us not make conclusion because there is still the appeal process. There is no final decision yet on the filing of the case],” he said.
Roque also denied speculations that that Espinosa has been cleared of drug charges as part of a supposed concession in exchange of testifying against Senator Leila de Lima. He said the DOJ recommendation would actually not affect the drug case against de Lima since there are other witnesses who will testify against her.
Roque likewise dismissed as “baseless” allegations that Lim got away due to friendly relations with the President.
In case there is any irregularity in the filing of the drug case, Roque assured that those responsible would be held accountable, including dismissal from office. But for now, he said it was prudent to wait for Aguirre’s review of the case.
The controversial drug case will be among the topics that will be discussed by President Duterte in his meeting with security officials in Malacañang on Tuesday afternoon.