De Lima: Dismissal of Kerwin’s drug charges proves I’m innocent

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila de Lima said yesterday the dismissal of drug trafficking charges against Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Co by the Department of Justice (DOJ) proved her innocence.

Espinosa and Co, a convicted drug lord serving time at the New Bilibid Prison, testified separately in congressional hearings that De Lima was part of the illegal drug trade at the NBP when she was justice secretary during the Aquino administration.

“Now that the DOJ has acquitted Peter Lim, Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Co and others involved in illegal drugs, my innocence – as well as my belief that Duterte’s war on drugs is a failure – is further strengthened,” De Lima said.

“I remain focused on fulfilling my duties as a senator while facing the fabricated charges filed against me by the oppressive Duterte regime,” she added.

The testimonies of the alleged drug lords were among the evidence used to charge De Lima with drug trafficking.

She is being held at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

De Lima expressed doubts that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Duterte were not aware of the DOJ ruling.

She said the public would not have known about the exoneration of Espinosa and Lim if the DOJ resolution was not leaked to the media.

De Lima said it should be clear to the public by now the administration’s campaign against drugs “is a big joke, except that the thousands killed in its name are not laughing because they are all dead.”

“And the biggest joke of all? The government tried to hide the dismissal of the cases from the public since December last year. And now Duterte is pretending to huff and puff at this dismissal,” she said.

De Lima said Malacañang concealed the DOJ resolution for a deal with the drug lords “or they are so incompetent as to be completely ignorant of the dismissal a full three months after the fact.”

The DOJ has cleared Espinosa, Lim, Co and 20 others of drug charges for lack of evidence.

In a Senate hearing in November 2016, Espinosa claimed that he gave De Lima a total of P8 million for her senatorial campaign through her former driver Ronnie Dayan.

Leni seeks Leila’s release

Vice President Leni Robredo backed calls for De Lima’s release following the dropping of charges against the self-confessed drug lords.

In an interview yesterday in Pili, Camarines Sur, Robredo expressed alarm over the DOJ’s decision to dismiss the drug charges against Espinosa and Lim.

Robredo said De Lima was jailed because of Espinosa’s testimony during Senate hearings.

“But the DOJ is now saying that there was no sufficient evidence, there was no probable cause to file a case in court against Espinosa. Then why has Senator De Lima, whom they claimed received money from him, remained in detention for more than a year now?” the Vice President said.

Robredo and De Lima belong to the Liberal Party.

The Vice President said if the Duterte administration is really serious in eliminating the drug problem, it should run after the big fish.

“It is the DOJ that should ensure justice for all Filipinos, but it appears that the agency itself is the reason for the injustice,” Robredo said.

“The poor who are suspected of (involvement in drugs) are immediately killed. But the big fish… why not run after them?” she added.

Espinosa had admitted during a Senate hearing that he earned up to P50 million yearly in the illegal drug trade in the Visayas.

He told senators that De Lima was involved in his illegal drug operations. 

Lim, a Cebu-based businessman, was included in President Duterte’s narcolist for allegedly masterminding the drug trade in Central Visayas.  – Helen Flores




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