Manila court acquits Kerwin Espinosa over August 2016 raid
MANILA, Philippines — A Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Monday acquitted confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa for violating Republic Act No. 9516 or the Illegal Possession of Firearms and Explosives law.
The case was related to the August 2016 police raid of the Espinosa residence in Sitio Tinago, Barangay Binulho, in Albuera, Leyte.
The court noted Marcelo Adorco’s testimony against Espinosa, which the former recanted after claiming he was only coerced, threatened, and intimidated to sign it. Adorco was a bodyguard and driver of Espinosa.
“The truth being is that he was the bodyguard and driver of Mayor Espinosa, especially during cockfights; that the firearms and ammunitions were all taken from the houses of Mayor Espinosa and that accused Kerwin has no knowledge about these,” the Manila RTC said.
“Be that as it may, this Court rules and so holds that even without his recantation, the prosecution miserably failed to prove the guilt of accused Rolan Espinosa “Kerwin Espinosa” beyond reasonable doubt that he was in effect in control and possession over the firearms/weapons and ammunitions neither was he in actual nor constructive possession of the same,” it added.
During the raid, Espinosa and his family were abroad. Based on court records, Espinosa and his family left the Philippines on June 21, 2016, for Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Abu Dhabi. Espinosa was arrested in Dubai on October 17 of the same year and deported to Manila on November 16, 2016.
Following this acquittal, Espinosa is now left with a drug-related case in Baybay, Leyte – where he was previously allowed to post bail, another case in Manila – and two other cases for violating the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
In 2021, Makati RTC Branch 64 granted Espinosa’s demurrer to evidence plea after the prosecution failed to prove a conspiracy for drug trading. Espinosa was joined by Adorco, Lovely Impal, and Wu Tuan Yuan a.k.a. Peter Co, in filing this motion.
A “demurrer to evidence” is a formal suggestion to dismiss a case on grounds of insufficient evidence.
“The purported participation of Impal, Espinosa, and Yuan in the alleged conspiracy was based solely on Adorco’s recanted testimony, which is not only untrustworthy but also inadmissible for having been obtained in violation of his constitutional rights,” the Makati court said.
The Makati court added that the collective testimonies of the police officers “is not strong enough to show that the Espinosa Group conspired to commit illegal trade or illegal trafficking of dangerous drugs,” pointing out that “it is undisputed that the police officers have no personal knowledge of the crime that was allegedly committed.”
Despite the acquittal, Espinosa will remain in detention, his lawyer, Raymond Palad said Kerwin still has a non-bailable case in Manila.