HINDI pa po tapos ang boxing (The boxing match is not yet over).”
Malacañang on Tuesday said the dismissal of the drug charges against alleged drug lords Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim and several others was not yet final and would be thoroughly reviewed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd.
On Monday, prosecutors cleared from illegal drug charges trader Peter Lim and several other respondents in connection with the illegal drug trade operations of Espinosa in the Visayas region, finding no probable cause to charge them in court.
“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 the review to be made by Secretary Aguirre,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in a news briefing.
“Meanwhile, we understand the sentiments and the frustration of the public over the dismissal, but stress that the police can re-file the case, can introduce additional evidence, but we need to be very careful that at this stage, the evidence would be complete to sustain a conviction when filed before the courts,” Roque added.
The case filed by Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) alleged that illegal drugs were delivered to a grocery store in Makati City and then distributed by Espinosa’s men to Bohol, Samar, Northern and Southern Leyte, Biliran and some parts of Cebu.
The transactions supposedly involved 20 kilos of shabu from Peter Co on February 5, 2013; 20 kilos from Lim on February 16, 2013; and 50 kilos from Lim on June 7, 2015. There were four other supposed transactions and deliveries with Lim as supplier, allegedly in 2014.
Espinosa, tagged as the “biggest drug lord in the Visayas region,” admitted in 2016 that he was indeed involved in drugs. He is the son of the slain Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was killed by CIDG men in his detention quarters in 2016.
Roque said the Office of the President would take a “very interested position” in the case.
He added that while the complaints against Espinosa, Lim and several other alleged drug personalities were dismissed, the same would not happen to the case of Sen. Leila de Lima, detained since February 2017 for her alleged connection to the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“[In the dismissed case], it is only the DoJ that deemed that there was no probable cause. But in the case of de Lima, it was not only the Regional Trial Court that said there was probable cause, but the Judiciary,” Roque said.
President Rodrigo Duterte claimed the senator’s affair with former driver Ronnie Dayan led to her involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Dayan was the alleged bagman of de Lima who collected drug money from illicit transactions inside the NBP, which was then allegedly used to finance the senator’s campaign in 2016.
De Lima claimed she was wrongly accused because of her criticism of the Duterte administration’s drug war.
Lawmakers up in arms
Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said it seemed the administration was not really serious in its war against illegal drugs.
The lawmaker said that “from day one of his administration, [President Rodrigo] Duterte has already identified them (Espinosas) as the alleged top drug lords. So this dismissal based on insufficiency of evidence clearly shows that indeed the Duterte government is not serious to put a stop to the drug war.”
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said in a statement: “The government’s ‘war’ on drugs is not only unjust, but class-biased to the rich, the [prosecutors’] decision was reprehensible.”
“The biggest spot on Duterte’s anti-drug antics is the P6.4 billion smuggled shabu in customs, where the ‘big fish’ behind remains unpunished, that totally smashed the veracity of ‘war’ on drugs,” Casilao said.
Sen. Richard Gordon, who leads the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said he saw no reason for the government to initiate a campaign against illegal drugs, only to clear big-time drug personalities.
“I condemn that to the highest level. I don’t know if the President is aware of it, he must be aware of it. And I don’t know if he has a bigger game plan,” he said.
with REINA C. TOLENTINO, JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND LLANESCA T. PANTI