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Aguirre mum on junking of drug raps vs. Lim, Espinosa



Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday declined to comment on the dismissal of the criminal complaint filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) against Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, Roland “Kerwin” Espinosa, Peter Co and several others due to their alleged involvement in illegal drugs operations in Central and Eastern Visayas.

“As of the moment, my office will refrain from making unnecessary comment on this particular case since it will eventually be the subject of an automatic review, which I will resolve. Procedurally, my office has no hand nor say on the resolution of this case,” Aguirre said.

He noted that despite the dismissal, there are possible avenues to review this case, either by a motion for reconsideration, or ultimately, by way of automatic review by his office.

“Suffice it to say that the current status of the case against the respondents Peter Lim et al, does not mean that it is a final exoneration of their respective criminal liabilities. The dismissal is a slight bump on our war against drugs. It is likewise a wake-up (call) to all concerned that our efforts -- from apprehension to resolution to conviction -- must be concerted and thorough. However, we remain committed to waging the war on drugs,” Aguirre explained.

In a 42-page resolution, Assistant State Prosecutors John Michael Humarang and Aristotle Reyes dismissed the case for violation of Section 26 (b) of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act complaint filed by the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) against Lim, Espinosa and Co.

Aside from Lim, Espinosa and Co, cleared of violation of Section 26(b) of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2000, were Marcelo Adorco, Max Miro, Lovely Adam Impal, Ruel Mangalindan and Jaime Jun Pepito, a village councilor in Albuera, Leyte and individuals identified only by their aliases, namely Jeremy aka “Amang, Ricky, Warren, Tupie, Jojo, Yawa, Lapi, Royroy, Marlon, Bay, John Doe (alleged delivery man of Co), Peter Doe (alleged delivery man of Lim) and Robert Doe (also an alleged delivery man of Lim)”.

Section 26 (b) is an attempt or conspiracy for the sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical.

Adorco, Espinosa’s alleged henchman-turned-state witness, was also exonerated by the DOJ panel.

In his testimony, Adorco claimed Lim had supplied narcotics in “staggering amounts” to suspected drug kingpin Kerwin Espinosa for more than two years.

He said one such transaction involved the delivery of 50 kg. of shabu (crystal meth), which Lim personally handed to Espinosa at the parking lot of Cash & Carry supermarket in Makati City on June 7, 2015.

The DOJ prosecutors, however, said the witness’ allegations were “unworthy of consideration” and that his testimony was “rife with inconsistencies and contradictions”.

Moreover, Humarang and Reyes said Adorco’s claims were contrary to the “standards of human experience and the logical course of reality”.

“Indeed, for an evidence to be believed, it must proceed not only from the mouth of a credible witness, but must be credible in itself as to hurdle the test of conformity with the knowledgeable and common experience of mankind,” read the resolution approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassenell Rex Gingoyon and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr.

“To our view, the above discrepancies in Adorco’s affidavits have seriously impaired their probative value and have casted serious doubts on their credibility. His contradictory statements on important details simply eroded the integrity and veracity of his testimony,” it added.

"Though it may be argued that the corpus delicti of a crime may be established even by a single witness' uncorroborated testimony or even by circumstantial evidence, it is essential that this witness is credible. Given that Adorco is not a credible witness -- judging from the material inconsistencies and improbability of his allegations," it states.

The DOJ also pointed out that the "complainant has failed to present any circumstantial evidence to prove respondents illegal drug transactions, it is undeniable that the evidence in this case is grossly insufficient to justify a finding of probable cause that respondents engaged in the illegal drug trade".

The prosecution also gave weight to Lim's denial that he had met with Espinosa and respondent Adorco in Thailand on June 4, 2015 regarding the delivery of 50 kg. of shabu to Espinosa. It is because it was physically impossible for Lim to meet them because he had never been to Bangkok.

Also in the resolution, the prosecution level ruled that "pursuant to Department Order No. 004, dated Jan. 4, 2017, let the entire records of this case be elevated to the Secretary of Justice for Automatic Review".

Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / PNA