Prosecutors in Lim, Espinosa drug case ready to face allegations

MANILA The state prosecutors who dismissed the illegal drugs charges against self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa and businessman Peter Lim on late Tuesday maintained that they were just doing their jobs when they opted to dismiss the raps against the two.

Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John Humarang and former Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes added that they are prepared to face the allegations against them. Reyes has been recently appointed as Lucena trial court judge.

"At any rate, we're just doing our sworn duty and we are ready to face the allegations against us. We conducted the preliminary investigation in accordance with the applicable rules, and our resolution was based only on the evidence presented to us," the two said in a joint statement issued to members of the media.

The two-man panel deemed the case filed by the Philippine National Police -Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) as weak. The prosecutors said the complainant relied heavily on the testimonies of Marcelo Adorco, which were inconsistent based on his three affidavits.

"During the preliminary investigation, the complainant was given all the opportunity to present its case. Under the present rules, we have no authority to procure evidence on complainant's behalf. We stress that we cannot just rely on the inconsistent and contradictory statements of complainant's lone witness. Additional and credible evidence should have been submitted by the complainant to strengthen its case and justify the filing of criminal charges against the respondents in court, they said.

They also said the case against the respondents is not yet final as it is still undergoing review and further preliminary investigation by the new panel of prosecutors, noting there is still no definite finding on whether the respondents would be absolved of the charges.

In all drug cases under preliminary investigation, the dismissal of the charges at the level of the investigating prosecutors until its approval by the prosecutor general cannot be considered as final since the secretary of justice still has to review the resolution and to take appropriate actions thereon, just like in the present case, wherein he remanded it to the new panel of prosecutors, they said.

The prosecutors described as premature the recommendation of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) to have them placed under preventive suspension.

For his part, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the PACC is not familiar with the workings at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and that there was no basis for pushing for the suspension of the prosecutors.

The complaint is without basis because they do not know the workings and procedure of the DOJ when conducting preliminary investigation, Aguirre said when sought for a comment on the PACC recommendation.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said the DOJ prosecutors should have conducted clarificatory hearings and exerted extra efforts before resolving the case against the respondents.

The commission is also recommending a show cause for police officers who filed what was described as a weak case, and vowed to conduct a lifestyle check on erring officials.

Belgica said the commission had submitted its recommendation to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday.

We are here to say the commission en banc has recommended for the preventive suspension of all prosecutors who handled the case and to show cause against police who filed what we call as a weak case, Belgica told a press conference.

On Monday, Aguirre said he made it clear to the President that the state prosecutors' decision to dismiss the criminal complaint filed by the CIDG would be automatically reviewed by his office.

I asked the two parties to file all the other evidence they may have for them to be considered by a new panel (of DOJ prosecutors), he said.

Aguirre said the new panel of prosecutors is empowered to continue the preliminary investigation on the cases against the two alleged drug kingpins.

Because of this continuing outrage of the ignorant, what I did is that I recall(ed) the dismissal the drugs cases against Kerwin and company and created a new panel to continue the investigation and clarificatory of this case and I asked the two parties to file all order that they may have their evidence para yan ang i-consider ng ating (so that will be considered by our) new panel and the motion for reconsideration filed by CIDG has been moot and academic because of this order, he said.

The measure, Aguirre said, would allow the parties, including the PNP-CIDG, to submit additional pieces of evidence to support their respective position.

Aguirre said the CIDG can now beef up its case before a credible panel of prosecutors on the motion for reconsideration they have filed on the original Dec. 20, 2017 resolution.

Source: Philippine News Agency