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Solon slams DOJ for letting Espinosa, drug lords off hook

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By Ellson Quismorio

The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chairman on Wednesday castigated the Department of Justice (DOJ) for exonerating self-confessed drug personality Kerwin Espinosa and alleged drug lords such as Peter Go Lim and Peter Co, over violations of the Dangerous Drug Act.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

(MANILA BULLETIN)

In particular, Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers directed his ire at the DOJ panel of prosecutors which handled the cases of Espinosa, et al.

Barbers pointed out that Espinosa–son of slain former Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa–has openly and voluntarily admitted under oath before a Senate inquiry in August 2017 that he is indeed involved in illegal drug trafficking in Regions 7 and 8.

The younger Espinosa further admitted that Peter Go Lim is one of his suppliers of illegal drugs, the solon noted.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier filed the case against the accused using the affidavit of Marcelo Adorco, Espinosa’s driver-bodyguard, as basis.

However, the DOJ panel dismissed the case, stating that Adorco’s testimony alone was insufficient, since it was uncorroborated by another witness.

“How can the DOJ panel say that the testimony of the driver-bodyguard of Espinosa is uncorroborated when Espinosa himself validated such testimony in his own admission before the Senate investigation?” Barbers asked.

The panel chairman, who is a key supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign, had choice words for the government prosecutors over this blunder.

“Is the DOJ panel blind, deaf or dumb? Did they not see nor hear the testimony and admission that Kerwin Espinosa made before the Senate investigation? They could have taken notice of that admission and considered it part of the evidence before deciding the case against Espinosa and Lim,” Barbers said.

Before he was slain by police inside his detention cell in November 2016, Mayor Espinosa was implicated in the illegal drug trade by Duterte himself. The mayor surrendered and was jailed.

DOJ acted as court

Barbers stressed that all the DOJ panel had to do was determine the presence of probable cause, not sufficiency of evidence.

“Probable cause in lay man’s terms is ‘something that may lead a reasonable man to believe that indeed a crime is probably committed.’ But instead of doing just that, the panel arrogated upon itself the functions of the court–that is evaluating the sufficiency of evidence,” explained Barbers.

He went on to insinuate that the DOJ panel is in someone’s pocket.

“Instead of probable cause, the panel decision raised a mysterious million dollar question: what is the ‘probable cost’ of the dismissal?”

Barbers said he has also observed that lately, there seems to be a trend in the DOJ in dismissing drug cases due to alleged insufficiency of evidence, which he finds very alarming.

He noted the case of former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, the liability of whom was so glaring yet was cleared by the DOJ.

Faeldon got in trouble for the entry of P6.4 billion worth of shabu in the country via the BOC last year.

“The ultimate casualty here is the President’s war on drugs. It is a big blow to the credibility of the President’s list of narco personalities. If the DOJ wants to cast a shadow of doubt on the President’s list, then it is succeeding, to the delight of the narco personalities mentioned therein,” Barbers said.

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