Pimentel cites caveat in state protection for Kerwin Espinosa
MANILA — Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III expressed his support, Thursday, for the granting of state protection to confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa under the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program. But ultimately, the DOJ would have to make that call after carefully assessing Espinosa’s story, the senator said.
Pimentel said he saw “good grounds” for endorsing the request of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs to put Espinosa under the DOJ witness protection program (WPP), but added that the decision would be for the DOJ to make.
He also urged the DOJ to be careful in weighing Espinosa’s statements.
“There’s a request by the committee (Senate commitee on public order and dangerous drugs). My initial feeling on that is that there are good grounds, and I will approve it. But that is not tantamount to inclusion in the WPP … the DOJ is the administrator of the program,” said Pimentel in a presser Thursday afternoon.
He clarified that his endorsement of such a request to the DOJ would not mean he already believed Espinosa to be “the truth-teller.”
Facing the committee’s inquiry into the Nov. 5 slaying of his father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., the younger Espinosa had accused several personalities of benefiting from his illicit trade, among them Sen. Leila de Lima and several police officers.
De Lima has denied the allegations several times, saying it was just part of an administration-made script to pillory her for being vocal against President Duterte’s bloody campaign against drugs and his other policies.
Asked on his take about the allegations against De Lima, his former election lawyer, Pimentel, Mr. Duterte’s key ally at the Senate, did not make a comment except to say: “She can defend herself.”
Pimentel cited the grounds to admit Espinosa in the WPP: “We are investigating a grave offense. His testimony is crucial and very important. He may know something that other people can’t testify on, and he appears not to be the most guilty.”
“But whether he is previously convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, it’s up to the DOJ to investigate,” Pimentel said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the investigating committee, said he has discussed the matter with Pimentel.
“We just talked about it. He withholds action and subjects the committee recommendation to further discussion. I mentioned to him some jurisprudence and precedents, which could be used as reference to whatever action he may take,” Lacson said. SFM
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