Duterte-tagged Kerwin Espinosa cleared in 2nd of 4 drug cases
A Makati City court has cleared confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa and his coaccused of charges of drug trading, citing insufficient evidence.
In her 21-page decision dated June 6 and released Friday, Judge Veronica Tongio-Igot of Makati Regional Trial Court- (RTC) Branch 65 granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Espinosa and his driver-bodyguard Marcelo Adorco, who were both charged with conspiracy to commit drug trading in connection with an alleged transaction in Makati in 2015.
It was Espinosa’s second acquittal out of the four drug cases filed against him during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
In 2021, Makati RTC Branch 64 also dismissed a drug case in which Espinosa was accused together with Peter Lim.
His last two cases are still pending in local courts in Manila and his home province of Leyte.
Espinosa, 42, remains in detention at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Aside from the drug cases, he is also on trial in another Manila court for illegal possession of firearms.
In granting Espinosa’s demurrer to evidence, Tongio-Igot noted that the prosecution failed to prove the “elements” of the alleged crime he committed with Adorco under Republic Act No. 9165, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The judge dismissed as “hearsay” the testimonies of three police officers who claimed to have knowledge of the drug transaction involving the defendants. According to the decision, Adorco was also not provided with a lawyer when being questioned by the policemen, who subsequently turned over to the Department of Justice an affidavit they had sought from the suspect.
Tongio-Igot also noted that the prosecution did not summon Adorco to the witness stand about his affidavit.
“For this reason, affidavits are generally rejected for being hearsay unless the affiant themselves are placed on the witness stand to testify thereon,” she said. “The rationale for this is respect for the accused’s constitutional right of confrontation or to meet the witnesses against him face-to-face.”
The judge also questioned several assertions in Espinosa’s affidavit as presented by the prosecution—such as the claim that his appearance before a Senate inquiry on Nov. 23, 2016 was voluntary.
The Senate at that time was looking into the drug allegations involving one of its members, then Sen. Leila de Lima, who would be charged by the Department of Justice and detained a year later.
“Other than presenting the transcript of stenographic notes of the Senate hearing when Espinosa testified, the prosecution failed to show that such confession was made voluntarily,” the judge said.
Espinosa gave a Senate testimony linking De Lima to the drug trade almost three weeks after his father, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte, was killed inside his detention cell on Nov. 5, 2016, in what the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Eastern Visayas claimed was a “shootout.”
The Espinosas were among the first high-profile targets of the drug war launched by Duterte at the start of his presidency.
In April last year, the younger Espinosa recanted his allegations against De Lima, saying “Any statement I made against the senator was false and the result only of pressure, coercion, intimidation and serious threats to my life and family members.”
De Lima had been charged with conspiracy to commit drug trading in three separate cases. The first case was dismissed in 2021 and the second ended in an acquittal last month.
On Wednesday, the Muntinlupa court hearing her third and last drug case denied her petition for bail.