Kerwin drug case and Napoles as state witness 'priorities' of new DOJ chief
Menardo Guevarra took the vacated seat of former Justice chief Vitaliano Aguirre II after Duterte, in a speech late Thursday afternoon, said that he has accepted the resignation of his fraternity brother and law school classmate.
Presidential Photo/Toto Lozano

Kerwin drug case and Napoles as state witness 'priorities' of new DOJ chief

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 9, 2018 - 4:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Newly appointed justice chief Menardo Guevarra said that the drug case against Kerwin Espinosa and application of alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles as state witness are on top of the cases he will review.

In a text message to reporters, Guevarra said: “I will give top priority to a review of recent [Department of Justice] actions on Kerwin Espinosa and Napoles.”

“I will reserve any judgment though [until] I have thoroughly studied the matter,” he also said, adding that he is creating a “small legal team” to assist him in studying the said cases.

Last week, Guevarra said that President Rodrigo Duterte told him to “do what is right” and to “bring back the DOJ’s dignified image.”

The said cases are two of the high-profile cases that had major developments in the last month of Guevarra’s predecessor, former justice chief Vitaliano Aguirre’s II helm of the DOJ.

RELATED: Six controversial cases that earned Aguirre criticism

President Rodrigo Duterte has vented his ire at Aguirre, his fraternity brother and law school classmate, at the way the latter seemingly “mishandled” the cases against Espinosa, a confessed drug dealer.

Citing weak evidence, the DOJ junked the police-filed drug raps against Espinosa, Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, inmate Peter Co and a dozen others.

Aguirre backed the state prosecutors in their resolution. The Philippine National Police admitted that they did not attach Espinosa’s confession—crucial evidence in charging the respondents—in their complaint.

Under the rules of the DOJ, dismissal of drug raps are automatically elevated to the Office of the Justice Secretary for review.

The DOJ, under a new panel of prosecutors, is set to hold a preliminary investigation on the case on Thursday, April 12 at 1:00 p.m.

Also pending before the DOJ is the application of Napoles for the department’s witness protection program.

The justice department reopened its investigation into the multi-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund program under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

The Office of the Ombudsman has insisted that the Sandiganbayan hold the authority on Napoles’ application as state witness, as she is currently facing a string of plunder charges at the anti-graft court.

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