Duterte won’t ever defeat drug lords
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2018 - 12:00am

President Rodrigo Duterte won’t ever win his war on drugs. Not with the way his underlings are doing it.

In one blow prosecutors cleared three of the eight biggest drug lords in Duterte’s hit list. Exonerated of narco-trafficking were Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, Peter Co, and 20 of their henchmen.

People closely monitoring the drug issue smelled something fishy. Prosecutors had things all wrapped up for them. Espinosa had confessed in a televised Senate hearing to narco-trading. Lim had surrendered in 2016 to Duterte no less. Co already is imprisoned for life for kidnapping. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has dossiers on them as the top shabu (meth) producers in the Visayas and Luzon. A solid case would have been built.

Presumably it wasn’t rushed. State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes had ample months to determine probable cause, and Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. to approve. It would be up for automatic review by Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre, Duterte’s legal point man in the drug war. Lawyer-senator Richard Gordon is pessimistic. “(Aguirre) has dismissed too many,” he said of cases that the chamber had looked into. Among those was the murder rap against police Supt. Marvin Marcos for killing Kerwin’s jailed mayor-father Rolando Espinosa. Also, multiple ones against ex-Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon in connection with the smuggling of 604 kilos of shabu worth P6.5 billion at the Manila port.

The justice department claimed to have no choice but to drop the drug charge. The sole witness Marcelo Adorco was deemed unbelievable. His narratives were inconsistent and defied human nature. He lied about the years of his drug dealings with Lim and Co as Espinosa’s trusty. Prosecutors gave credence to Lim’s claim to never have been to Bangkok, where Adorco said he and Espinosa met in 2013.

The prosecutors blamed the police investigators for the flimsy case. No circumstantial evidence backed up Adorco’s testimony.

What went wrong? Did not the PNP’s crack Criminal Investigation and Detection Group handle it? Was it not the CIDG’s elite Major Crimes Investigation Unit that processed the evidence? Why the major flaw then?

The dragnet for the Espinosa father and son was well publicized. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa had assigned Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido as police chief of Albuera, Leyte to pin them down. Kerwin fled abroad. Mayor Rolando barricaded himself in his mansion. Espenido’s men arrested Adorco in a buy-bust, and slew six Espinosa bodyguards in a gun battle. Raiding Kerwin’s adjacent house they found a black book of political and police-military protectors, wads of cash, and other evidence. The older Espinosa turned himself in. The Interpol nabbed Kerwin in Abu Dhabi.

From all that emerged many police reports, eyewitness accounts, and physical evidence. Why did the cops file a case based solely on the story of one suspect-turned-witness?

That the rap was dismissed as far back as Dec. but was disclosed only this week makes it all the more suspicious. Why the secrecy in such a high-profile case?

Many things can happen during mysterious time lags. Espinosa and Co are state witnesses in the drug case against Sen. Leila de Lima. Aside from United Nations and European rights advocates calling for her release, what has happened to that rap? Two of Espinosa’s lawyers were assassinated in Aug. 2017 and last month. Has the police identified any suspects? Peter Lim is a compadre (wedding cosponsor) of Duterte, dela Rosa has told the Senate. Despite Duterte’s declaration to want to personally kill him, have others begun to treat Lim differently?

All this consequently tell on the credibility of Duterte’s drug war. That war started with daily police visits to pusher-addicts’ homes to tell them to desist. Two million of them surrendered to barangay halls, but were sent home because there simply are not enough jails, rehab clinics, and soup kitchens to house and feed them. There also were nightly killings of violent resistors in police raids. Local and world leaders took notice of reports that more than 7,000 had been slain within a year, which the PNP corrected as “only” 3,500.

Duterte at first said he would finish the war in six months. Later admitting it wasn’t as easy as what he did as mayor of Davao City, he extended his deadline to one, then two years. Now he’s saying it would take his entire term.

How can Duterte lick drugs when his men are quick only to eliminate shabu street peddlers but not the billionaire manufacturers? The 604 kilo-P6.5-billion confiscated shabu was only 15 percent of the contraband. Authorities have no clue about the 85 percent, or 3,423 kilos worth P36.8 billion?

Vigilante justice has taken over. With Duterte’s men unable to wage drug war properly, assassins are punishing the suspects. Only three days ago one of Espinosa’s co-accused henchmen, Max Miro, was slain by motorcycling gunmen. During the hunt for Espinosa, Miro had been caught with three kilos of shabu, but no charges were filed against him for that.

The PNP brags that index crimes like rape, robbery, and theft are down, but that murder is up. As if that is comforting.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459 or https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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