De Lima: Is Kerwin Espinosa still under WPP?
Who’s holding Kerwin Espinosa now?
Detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday raised this question after the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) recently revealed that the confessed drug kingpin in the Visayas region had taken back his extrajudicial admission.
De Lima, the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug war, asked if Espinosa was still under the custody of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) since he had already recanted his sworn statement.
Espinosa had previously claimed giving P8 million in protection money to De Lima, purportedly to let him run his narcotics business in Eastern Visayas provinces.
He had also identified Cebu businessman Peter Lim, a wedding co-sponsor of the President, as his main supplier of illegal drugs.
“I assume [his] testimony, where he admitted to his drug dealings as [the] biggest drug lord [in Eastern Visayas] and pointed to so-called cohorts and protectors of his, was the very basis of his admission into the WPP,” De Lima said in her latest handwritten dispatch from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center where she has been detained since February 2017.
“If that is the case, wouldn’t his reported recantation serve to nullify his WPP coverage on the ground of serious breach of his agreement with the government?” she said. “To put it plainly, what is now the raison d’être for [his] WPP admission if he already disowned his previous admissions relative to his status as a big-time drug lord and his drug connections?”
Espinosa’s testimony against De Lima was one of the reasons why she was indicted for drug trafficking, an allegation she claimed was due to her vocal opposition to the President’s take-no-prisoners approach to stem the drug menace.
Espinosa was last seen in public on Thursday when he attended the reopening of the DOJ preliminary probe on the drug charges against him, Lim and several others, which was junked in December 2017.
De Lima wondered why the DOJ apparently kept Espinosa’s supposed recantation under wraps.
“Up to now, [the] DOJ has neither confirmed nor denied what the CIDG has disclosed, rather unwittingly. Why?” she said.
The senator alled on Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and the incoming Philippine National Police chief, Director Oscar Albayalde, to look into the killings of nine people directly linked with Espinosa, among them his father, Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, who was killed by police officers inside his prison cell.
“I hope people realize that there is here a grand cover-up,” she said. “Would it be too much to ask the new DOJ secretary, the incoming PNP chief and also the Senate to dig deeper into all these? For truth’s sake.” /atm
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