Prosecutor on Espinosa, et al. case: ‘It is not our job to look for evidence’
“It is not our job to look for evidence,” said one of the prosecutors who had recommended the dismissal of the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police´s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) against businessman Peter Lim, self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa and several others.
Former Assistant Prosecutor, now Lucena, Quezon Regional Trial Court Judge Aristotle M. Reyes said the duty of the prosecutor is not to gather evidence but to evaluate the evidence submitted by the complainant, on this case, the CIDG.
He said if Kerwin made an admission of his illegal drug transactions during the Senate investigation, it is the CIDG´s duty to get the certified transcript and attach it to the complaint filed before the Department of Justice DOJ).
“Ang testimony nya sa Senate hindi inoffer ng CIDG. Hindi namin pwede i-[take] cognizance yan na hindi sinusubmit sa amin. In fact, during the presscon of the CIDG yesterday, the CIDG admitted that they did not purposely presented the admission of Kerwin,” Reyes told reporters.
(His [Kerwin] testimony at the Senate was not offered to us by CIDG. We cannot take cognizance of the [senate testimony] if it has not been submitted to us. In fact, during the press conference of the CIDG yesterday, the CIDG admitted that they did not purposely presented the admission of Kerwin.)
The CIDG at a press conference said they wrote a letter to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre urging him not to accept Kerwin to the government’s Witness Protection Program for refusing to cooperate with them. CIDG Chief Roel Obusan said they expected Kerwin to corroborate the statement of the lone witness Marcelo Odorco, instead, he denied the allegations.
“Kung meron syang statement sa Senate but later nagdeny sya, bahala ang CIDG i-present sa amin at bahala kami mag-evaluate. The problem is CIDG mismo ang hindi nag present nyan,” he added.
(If he [Kerwin] has a testimony before the Senate but later on he denied it, it was up to the CIDG to present that to us and it will be up to us to evaluate. The problem is CIDG itself opted not to present it.)
“Itong reklamo ng CIDG napakahina nagiisa ang witness. Meron naman sana silang corroborative witness and yet hindi nila ito sinama,” Reyes said.
(The complaint by CIDG was very weak. They only have one witness. There was a corroborative witness and yet he was excluded from the complaint.)
Reyes was referring to Jose Antipuesto, Kerwin’s aide and childhood friend. However, Antipuesto recanted his testimony in a hearing before the Manila Court saying he was only coerced by the police.
The lone witness of the CIDG that Reyes was referring to was Odorco who executed three affidavits.
“Because he was the only evidence of the CIDG, we were constrained to scrutinize his statement. In his three affidavits, we found material inconsistencies affecting the fact in issue,” Reyes said. He explained that because of the inconsistencies, his credibility has been affected.
“Also, he has no personal knowledge on most of the material allegations pertaining to the drug deal,” Reyes said noting that Odorco admitted that he learned about the drug deals only when he overheard Kerwin talking on the phone.
When asked if the inconsistencies in the three affidavits can be considered ‘human frailty,’ Reyes said they would have accepted it if Odorco was able to clarify issued in his every affidavit.
“Pero kung nagkakamali ka pa, hindi na yan masyado acceptable. Sa halip na liwanaging, ginulo mo,” he said.
Reyes, together with Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John M. Humarang conducted the preliminary investigation on the CIDG complaint. They recommended its dismissal which was affirmed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rex F. Gingoyon and approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan.
Reyes said they cannot go looking for evidence which the complainant cannot provide.
“Ang mandate ng prosecutor for preliminary investigation is to receive the complaint, evaluate the complaint if it has basis to continue with the investigation. If there is a basis, we require the respondent/s to submit counter-affidavit and based on the evidence presented by both parties, we will resolve the case,” he explained.
“Supplying the needed evidence is not in our mandate otherwise we would be lawyering for one of the parties,” he added.
While admitting disappointment on the order to investigate them, Reyes said he welcomes the investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as an opportunity to clear their names.
“As a former prosecutor, nakakalungkot na parang ganyan ang resulta ng trabaho namin,” Reyes said adding that “we cannot decide against a person because of public clamor even if there really is not enough evidence.”
“We will submit to the investigation kasi para ma-clear din kami kung ano ang insinuation na sinasabi against us,” he said.
“Sino ba naman napakalakas na loob na tao na lalaruin ang ganyang klaseng kaso. Magrurule kami based sa evidence atsaka sa law. Kung talagang wala kahit sino ka kahit sinasabing kaalyado ka ng administrasyon o kalaban ka kung talagang wala ireresolve namin yan na ididismiss namin ang case,” he said.
(Who has the guts to play around this kind of case? We will rule based on the evidence and the law. If there is none, regardless if you are an ally or against the administration, we will resolve it by dismissing the case.)
Like Reyes, Humarang said he welcomes the creation of another panel to review the case as well as the NBI investigation against them.
”We welcome the reinvestigation of the case. We stand ready to face the probe, malinis ang aming konsensya at makikita naman na complainant did not present sufficient evidence but instead relied only on the testimony of its sole witness,” Humarang said in a message to reporters.
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