Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim and Peter Co

DOJ clears Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim of drug raps
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2018 - 12:00am

Weak evidence cited

MANILA, Philippines — His father, the mayor of Albuera town, was shot dead in a jail cell and six of their bodyguards were killed in raids on their homes on accusations of drug trafficking.

Yesterday, Kerwin Espinosa, who earlier said he was the drug dealer and not his slain father Rolando, was cleared of drug charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which cited weak evidence.

Also cleared were several other respondents including Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, a campaign supporter and kumpare of President Duterte. Lim was tagged by a witness as the supplier of drugs to Kerwin Espinosa.

In a 41-page resolution, the investigating panel of prosecutors dismissed for lack of probable cause the complaint for sale, administration, dispensation, trading, delivery and transportation of illegal drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act against Lim and the other respondents, which was filed by the Philippine National Police- Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) last year.

Also cleared were alleged New Bilibid Prison drug trafficker Peter Co, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and Lovely Adam Impal as well as 12 other unnamed persons.

The DOJ resolution is dated Dec. 20, 2017 but was not officially released to the media. It was obtained by reporters from an insider in the DOJ only yesterday.

Kerwin Espinosa had told a congressional inquiry that he had contributed to the campaign of Sen. Leila de Lima, who is being held without bail on drug charges.

The DOJ panel rejected the testimony of state witness Marcelo Adorco, who claimed he had supplied narcotics in “staggering amounts” to Kerwin Espinosa for more than two years.

But prosecutors held that 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,” the prosecutors pointed out.

The DOJ also cited as basis the failure of the PNP-CIDG to present “any circumstantial evidence to prove respondents’ illegal drug transactions.”

“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 be credible,” the DOJ explained in the resolution signed by Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes.

The prosecutors said Adorco is not a credible witness, “judging from the material inconsistencies and improbability of his allegations.”

“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 prosecutors stressed.

Instead, the DOJ panel gave weight to Lim’s denial of the allegation that he had met with Espinosa and Adorco in Thailand on June 4, 2015 for the delivery of 50 kilos of shabu to Espinosa. Lim argued that this was physically impossible because he had never been to Bangkok.

In a counter-affidavit, Lim dismissed the drug charges as “baseless and nonsensical.” He claimed he was never involved in the illegal drug trade in Central Visayas as alleged by the PNP and never met Adorco, Kerwin Espinosa and the other respondents.

The businessman has denied that he is the alias Jaguar in the government’s narco list who supplied illegal drugs to the group of Espinosa, recalling that he even presented himself to the National Bureau of Investigation to clear up the matter.

Aside from the PNP, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has said Lim is the same person who is one of the top five most wanted drug traffickers on the PDEA list. Lim has also denied this.

Pursuant to DOJ rules on drug cases, the dismissal of the case would be subject to review by the justice secretary.

Kerwin’s father was tagged by Duterte as a narco politician and arrested in the raids that left their bodyguards dead in Albuera, Leyte.

On Nov. 5, 2016, he was shot dead in his cell at the Baybay City Provincial jail allegedly after shooting it out with a police team that ostensibly planned to search his cell for drugs.

Arrest order out for warehouse owner

Meanwhile, the Manila regional trial court (RTC) has ordered the arrest of Richard Tan, owner of the warehouse where P6.4 billion worth of shabu were confiscated last year.

In her order, Manila RTC Branch 46 Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa junked Tan’s motion to dismiss the drug importation case for failing to justify the allegation of forum shopping.

She said that the case does not constitute double jeopardy after the drug importation charges were earlier dismissed by the Valenzuela RTC for lack of jurisdiction and the case was refiled before the Manila court. 

The decision of the Valenzuela court, which was appealed by the prosecution, has not yet attained finality and thus there was no forum shopping, she added.

The refiling of the case was also properly justified by the prosecution, thus Tan’s motion to dismiss was denied for lack of merit.

“The court finds that the filing of the present information does not place the accused in double jeopardy, which would bar the prosecution in filing another information against him,” Montesa ruled.

“Let a warrant of arrest be issued against Chen Julong aka Richard Tan or Richard Chen. No bail is fixed,” she added.

Tan will face trial with alleged customs fixer Mark Ruben Taguba and the other suspects in the alleged smuggling of 602 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu worth P6.4 billion that slipped through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last year and was confiscated at a warehouse owned by Tan’s Hongfei Logistics Group in Valenzuela City.

It was also Taguba who, during a Senate investigation, exposed the breakdown of alleged grease money for high-ranking officials at the BOC.  – Marc Jayson Cayabyab

KERWIN ESPINOSA PETER LIM
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