The dark comedy that enveloped the Department of Justice (DoJ) this week with its dismissal of probable cause for filing formal charges against self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and others must end now before the absurdity of the whole scene makes a grotesque mockery of the Philippine justice system.
Dropping the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) against Espinosa, Peter Co and Peter Lim, and all others who have all been suspected of operating as drug lords, attacks justice on many fronts:
1) They have all appeared in the drug lords list held by President Rodrigo Duterte since he launched his anti-drug war at the start of his administration.
2) Kerwin Espinosa has admitted at a Senate hearing on illegal drugs trade in the country that he was trading in drugs, and that, he had even given funds to former DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima as protection money for his drug operations.
3) Prior to that admission, when Kerwin was still in hiding, his father, former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, was detained for his and his son’s alleged involvement in the drug trade, and died in his jail cell as police claimed the mayor engaged them in a gunfight.
4) When Kerwin finally turned up at the Senate and made his confession, he cleared his father of involvement in the drug trade.
5) If Kerwin were to go free, cleared as the investigating panel has done, the question would go back to “Why” there was any need to jail his father, and a bigger “Why” there was a need for the police jail search and the scuffle that resulted in his father’s death.
More than the existential questions involved in this sorry affair, the technicalities of the process of filing charges must not obstruct the way for the truth to come out. The path must be cleared for the truth about Kerwin’s extent of involvement in the illegal drug trade to surface.
Kerwin’s admission of guilt in an affidavit he read at the Senate hearing last year may not have been included in the resolution submitted by the PNP-CIDG to DoJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, because as PNP-CIDG Director Roel Obusan said, it was made while Kerwin was under the Witness Protection Program, and which he later retracted.
This was what made the case against Kerwin weak, as far as Aquirre is concerned. The panel also found the testimony of the PNP-CIDG witness Marcelo Adorco against Kerwin failing to match the other claims presented, such as the year when he allegedly met Lim and Kerwin.
President Duterte must have also jumped off his seat when he learned of the DoJ’s move to clear Kerwin and the other drug lords named in his list. On Wednesday, Duterte was reported to have warned Aguirre to watch out and avoid making the mistake of letting Kerwin and the others accused with him to go scot-free, or the justice secretary would take their place in jail.
When Aguirre reviews the resolution to determine probable cause, the DoJ secretary should consider that Kerwin’s admission of guilt at the Senate was made “under oath,” for which a witness is obliged to speak nothing but the truth.
Kerwin, at the time, even testified that he gave P8 million to de Lima as protection money so he could carry on his operations unbothered by the authorities. If that was the truth, where else did he get that amount of money, if not from the illegal drug trade, to protect the kind of business he claimed he operated?
Or could he be lying when he retracted his statement later when his WPP protection lapsed? If he was not telling the truth, then why is de Lima in jail?
Director Obusan was right when he said, what would matter in the eyes of the court and the public now is the credibility that Kerwin has tarnished by changing his testimony to whatever suits him at the moment.
Obusan remains confident that the PNP-CIDG has a strong case against Kerwin and the others, thus he filed a motion for reconsideration with the DoJ.
Justice will catch up with those who have truly engaged in the illegal drug trade and helped destroy lives. More importantly, attempts to mock justice will not prosper through the end, for the blindfolded lady is not dumb.