The Department of Justice has indicted confessed drug operator Kerwin Espinosa and three others over the drug charges filed by the Philippine National Police.
This came after the new DoJ panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera resolved to reverse an earlier resolution that dismissed the complaint of PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and instead approved the filing of charges against Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co, Lovely Impal and Ruel Malindangan for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
The case will be filed against them Friday before the Makati City Regional Trial Court.
However, the DoJ panel did not resolve the drug charges of the CIDG against Cebuano businessman Peter Lim after the panel granted his plea for a separate preliminary investigation.
In its resolution released Thursday afternoon, the DoJ found probable cause to hold the four respondents liable for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
The DoJ panel based its findings on the testimony of state witness Marcelo Adorco, who confessed participation in the illegal drug trade and pinpointed Espinosa, Co, Impal and Malindangan as his cohorts.
The investigating prosecutors said that contrary to the defense of Espinosa, who is already facing other drug cases before the Manila RTC, the confiscation or presence of the illegal drugs was not necessary to establish the criminal liabilities of respondents.
Under the law, conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading is an offense distinct from drug trading per se.
The panel also cited as basis the confession of Espinosa during earlier Senate inquiry that he was involved in drug trade in Regions 7 and 8.
The DoJ cleared three other respondents in the case—Max Miro, Nestor Pepito and Rowen Reyes Secretaria--due to their recent deaths.
The DoJ dismissed late last year the charges of sale, administration, dispensation, trading, delivery and transportation of illegal drugs against the respondents.
The previous panel composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes dismissed the charges and faulted the PNP-CIDG for presenting weak evidence and the “inconsistencies” in the testimony of Adorco.
Outrage over the dismissals led to the reopening of the case.
Additional pieces of evidence were then submitted by the CIDG, through the assistance of the office of the solicitor general. The evidence included a new affidavit from Adorco further detailing the alleged meeting between Lim and Espinosa in Thailand in 2015 where they closed a drug trade deal.
The police also submitted records from the Bureau of Immigration to support Adorco’s claim.
The complainant also presented to the panel of prosecutors the transcripts of the 2016 Senate hearings on the investigation of the killing of Espinosa’s father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. where he confessed his role in the illegal drug trade.
It also submitted the 2002 House of Representatives committee on dangerous drugs report into the activities of Lim and his brother Wellington.
Lastly, they submitted a certified true copy of the “blue book” of a certain Bebeth Rebecca Diano that allegedly listed those who are under Espinosa’s payola.
In his answer, Lim vehemently denied the drug charges as “baseless and nonsensical.”
He said he is never involved in illegal drug trade in Central Visayas as alleged by the PNP and never met Marcelo Adorco or Kerwin Espinosa and other respondents tagged in the illegal drug trade.
The businessman also denied that he was the alias Jaguar in the government’s narco-list, recalling that he even presented himself before the National Bureau of Investigation earlier.