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Manila RTC affirms DOJ findings vs Espinosa, 4 others

/ 06:05 PM August 23, 2018

Suspected drug trafficker Kerwin Espinosa is heavily guarded by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation as he attends the preliminary hearing on the drug charges at the Department of Justice. INQUIRER.net file photo / Tetch Torres-Tupas

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) has affirmed the findings of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa and four others should face trial for two counts of violation of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act).

Aside from Espinosa, Manila RTC Branch 51 Judge Merianthe Pacita Zuraek also affirmed the finding of probable cause against convicted drug lord Peter Co, witness Marcelo Adorco, Lovely Impal and Ruel Malindangan.

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“After personally evaluating the information and its certification, together with the documents submitted in support thereof, the Court finds the existence of probable cause against (all accused),” read the court’s order. The court also issued the warrant of arrest.

The arrest warrant will only affect Malindangan who remains at large. He is also a subject of a warrant of arrest issued by the Makati Court on another drug case with Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim.

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On the other hand, co-accused Co is already serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City while Espinosa, Adorco and Impal are all in the custody of authorities. The court ordered their continued commitment or detention in their respective detention facilities. Espinosa is also facing other drug cases before the Manila RTC.

Arraignment is set on Aug. 29 inside the NBP facility.

Upon recommendation of the DOJ, the judge also set no bail for the accused.

The judge, likewise, consolidated the two separate cases filed by the DOJ against the five accused, considering that the separate counts “form part of a series of offenses of similar character and prosecution will be presenting common evidence in said cases.”

The DOJ filed the cases against the five last July 25 after preliminary investigation conducted by a panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera found ample basis in the complaint of PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for violation of section 26 (B) in relation to section 5 or Article II of R.A. 9165.

The investigating panel based its findings on the testimony of Adorco, who confessed participation in the illegal drug trade and pinpointed Espinosa, Co, Impal and Malindangan as his cohorts.

The case was previously dismissed by a DOJ panel of prosecutors for lack of evidence but because of the outrage over the dismissal of the against Lim and Espinosa that caught the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered a reinvestigation. Aguirre eventually resigned from office. /jpv

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