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Peter Lim, Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Co, others not yet off the hook

Malacañang on Tuesday said the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to junk the criminal complaint filed by police against high-profile personalities involved in illegal drug operations is "far from being case closed".

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after the DOJ dismissed the drug trafficking charges against Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, self-confessed drug dealer Roland “Kerwin” Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co and others filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) last year.

“We would like to assure the public that the dismissal is far from being final. It is in fact subject to automatic review by (Justice) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Roque stressed that the Office of the President will take a very “interested position” on the case and will closely monitor how the police will act from hence on.

Moreover, he said the government would not allow “big fish” like Lim, Espinosa, Co, among others be "off the hook" just yet.

“If upon review, the DOJ finds reasons to reserve the dismissal, then it will be reversed. If however, it is necessary to find 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,” Roque said.

He said that although he failed to answer the call of DOJ spokesperson Usec. Erickson Balmes just before the briefing was held, he was also told that the case is far from being closed.

“Hindi pa po tapos ang boksing, rerepasuhin pa po yan ng kalihim ng Secretary of Justice at sisiguraduhin na tama ang naging naunang desisyon ng ating naging public prosecutors (The boxing match isn’t over, the Secretary has to review it and make sure that the first decision of public prosecutors is right),” Roque said.

Roque also said that the Palace has informed the DOJ about its “concern” on the dismissal.

“Siguro sapat na na naparating natin sa DOJ na nababahala ang Malacañang sa ganitong desisyon at dahil dito ay talagang masusi nilang pag-aaralan kung dapat ba dagdagan or dapat ba baliktarin ang desisyon ng investigating panel (I think it’s enough that we made the DOJ know that we are concerned about this decision and because of this, they will review more thoroughly if there is a need for additional evidence or if the decision of the investigating panel should be revisited),” he added.


Roque denied that the DOJ was being "soft" on Lim since he was President Rodrigo Duterte’s “kumpadre” or wedding co-sponsor.

“Unfair naman ‘yun na palibhasa naging kumpadre sa kasal. Lahat ng nanunungkulan sa gobyerno, napakadaming kasal na pinupuntahan at ‘di naman nakakapili kung sinong kumpadre (I think that’s unfair to say that since they’re wedding co-sponsors. All government officials attend weddings and they don’t get to select their wedding co-sponsors),” Roque said.

He said that there was no basis for the allegation and urged to wait for the DOJ to make its next move.

“Wala namang basehan yung ganyang paratang at hayaan na muna natin umusad ang proseso du'n sa DOJ. At kung talagang mahina ang ebidensiya, titingnan kung paano ipapalakas (That allegation has no basis and let’s wait for the process at the DOJ to progress. If there really is weak evidence, let’s see how we can strengthen it),” he added.

Roque acknowledged the sentiments and frustration of the public over the dismissal of the case but stressed that police could still refile the case and introduce additional evidence.

He also assured the public that if proven that that there were indeed conspirators that helped dismiss the case, the President was bound to fire them.

“Kilala niyo ang Presidente, sibak, sibak, sibak ang magiging kasagutan diyan. Pero hayaan niyo muna repasuhin ng ating kalihim ng DOJ ‘yan dahil automatic review naman ‘yan (You know the President - the answer is to remove them. But allow the DOJ Secretary to review this because this is an automatic review),” Roque said.

Roque, meanwhile, admitted that there were weaknesses in the current criminal justice system particularly on how investigating prosecutors do not assist the police in case buildup.

“Ang isang kahinaan ng ating criminal justice system e yung mga piskalya palibhasa sila yung umuupo na nagde-determine ng probable cause maintains na trabaho ng pulis humanap ng ebidensiya (One weakness in the criminal justice system is when prosecutors, who sit an determine probable cause, maintain that it’s the police’s job to acquire evidence),” Roque said.

“Under our current system, it is the police that files the complaints and unfortunately, yung investigating prosecutors do not include assisting the police in case buildup,” he added.

He said that it was worth to make reforms wherein another branch of the national prosecution service can work with police in case buildup.

Azer Parrocha / PNA