Duterte will review dropping of charges vs suspected drug lords
Reacting to the outrage over the exoneration of high-profile drug kingpins, President Rodrigo Duterte questioned the findings of state prosecutors that the evidence against the suspects was weak, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday night.
“I will invoke my power of supervision and control and will review the dismissal,” Roque quoted Mr. Duterte as saying, as the presidential spokesperson provided social media updates on a joint command conference in Malacañang.
Mr. Duterte told Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that the latter would take the places of Cebu businessman Peter Lim and confessed drug trader Kerwin Espinosa if the two would go scot-free, Roque said.
The President also asked why the admission in Congress, in apparent reference to Espinosa, was not admitted as evidence.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors threw out the complaint against Lim, Espinosa and several others, saying the evidence presented by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group was weak.
New DOJ panel
The DOJ panel added that the testimony of the lone witness, Marcelo Adorco, had “inconsistencies.”
Roque also said on social media that Aguirre had formed a new investigation panel to review the case against Lim and Espinosa.
He also said the Philippine National Police would ask the DOJ to reconsider the ruling of prosecutors dismissing the case against Espinosa and Lim.
Malacañang said it was concerned with the exoneration of the high-profile drug lords and vowed not to let the big fish get away if there was evidence against them.
Roque said the Palace understood the public’s “sentiments and frustration” over the dismissal of the drug trafficking complaint.
The dismissal came in the wake of the killing of thousands of low-level drug suspects in police operations or by vigilantes.
While the exoneration of the high-profile drug suspects drew criticism, it was welcomed by Lim.
Peter Lim thanks DOJ
The suspected drug lord expressed thanks to the DOJ “for rendering a just resolution because after all, the pronouncement of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, which found headline in Cebu Daily News on Oct 1, 2016, is correct.”
Aguirre said the resolution issued by a DOJ panel—composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes—would be subjected to review “either by a motion for reconsideration, or ultimately, by way of automatic review by my office.”
Aguirre said it was too early for Lim and his fellow respondents to claim victory.
In one of his early moves in the drug war, Mr. Duterte named Lim as one of the people behind the illegal narcotics trade in the Visayas and threatened to kill him.
“The moment he lands at [the airport], he will die,” he said of Lim, who had been frequently flying to China.
Lim denied the allegation when he was granted a meeting with Mr. Duterte, his wedding compadre (cosponsor).
Aside from Lim and Espinosa, also absolved were convicted drug lord Peter Co, Adorco, Lovely Impal, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and several others known only by their aliases.
Like Espinosa, Co testified in a legislative inquiry linking detained Sen. Leila de Lima to the narcotics trade.
Espinosa and his employee Adorco also named Lim as the main source of the illegal drugs they had sold in Eastern Visayas.
Roque said the police could refile the cases and introduce new evidence that would be enough to sustain a conviction.
“The President’s promise is if the evidence is lacking, we will submit more; and if there are shenanigans, we will punish those responsible,” he said in a press briefing. –With a report from Ador Vincent S. Mayol
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