Guevarra to review Lim, Espinosa drug raps, Napoles WPP inclusion

MANILA Newly-appointed ad interim secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Menardo Guevarra, said on Monday that he will give top priority to review the controversial drug case involving Cebu businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

Guevarra, in a text message to Philippine News Agency (PNA), said he will also make priority to review the decision of his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre II, to place alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles under provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

I will give top priority to a review of recent DOJ actions on Kerwin Espinosa and Napoles. I will reserve any judgment though till I have thoroughly studied the matter, Guevarra said.

The new justice chief, however, asked for understanding from the media as he preferred not to discuss the cases while they are still pending before the Department of Justice (DOJ) unlike his predecessors.

He also appealed to members of the media to be patient as he does not want to make premature statements on pending cases until he has studied them.

Guevara, who served as deputy executive secretary both in the Aquino and Duterte administrations, was appointed as DOJ chief following Aguirre's resignation last week.

Aguirre confirmed Napoles' admission into the WPP after the latter executed an affidavit which provided more details on the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Aguirre said that the affidavit is being reviewed by the justice department for possible filing of additional cases against more government officials in relation to the PDAF scam. He has ordered a reinvestigation by a new panel of prosecutors of the drug case against Lim and Espinosa which was earlier dismissed by the previous panel that got the ire of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The strong public criticism on the dismissal of the drug case and the inclusion of Napoles in the WPP was believed to have prompted Aguirre to vacate his post.

Meanwhile, the new panel of prosecutors, composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, Assistant State Prosecutor Anna Norren Devanadera, and Prosecution Attorney Herbert Calvin Abugan, will start its preliminary investigation into the drug complaint on April 12.

The measure would allow the parties, including the police officials, to submit additional evidence to support their respective positions.

Apart from Lim and Espinosa, named as respondents in the complaint were convicted drug lord Peter Co, alleged drug supplier Lovely Impal, alleged drug dealer Marcelo Adorco, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Noel Jun Pepito, and 11 others, only known via their aliases Amang, Ricky, Warren, Tupie, Jojo, Jaime, Yawa, Lapi, Royroy, Marlon, and Bay.

Lim's co-accused Miro and Pepito were killed in separate incidents. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency