June 23, 2018, 10:36 am
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Rody threatens to ‘jail’ Aguirre over dismissal of raps vs Lim, Espinosa

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday threatened to “jail” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III if Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa “escape” from the long arm of the law.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President made the statement during the AFP-PNP Command conference in Malacanang.

“PRRD to SOJ: Pag- nakawala ‘yan si Lim at Espinosa, sya ang ipapalit ko. I can review that dismissal order. Nag-amin na nga sa Congress! Why not admit it as evidence against him?” Roque posted in his Facebook page.

(“President Duterte to Secretary of Justice: if Lim and Espinosa escapes, I will put him there as replacement. I can review that dismissal order. He already admitted Congress! Why not admit it as evidence against him?” Roque posted in his Facebook page.)

Duterte was referring to Espinosa’s admission during a Senate hearing that he was involved in the illegal drugs trade.

The President also said that he will “invoke my power of supervision and control and will review (the) dismissal.”

Roque said that during the meeting, Aguirre reported that the Department of Justice had formed a new investigation panel to review the case against Lim, Espinosa, and several others.

Earlier yesterday, Aguirre said the dismissal of the drug charges against Lim, Espinosa and the rest was just a “slight bump” in government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

He said government would continue to pursue the war against the illegal drugs trade.

“This dismissal is a slight bump on the war against drugs. It is likewise a wake-up call to all concerned that our efforts, from apprehension to resolution to conviction must be concerted and thorough. However, we remain committed to waging the war on drugs,” Aguirre said.

He said his office will review the resolution penned by Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes and affirmed by Acting Prosecutor General Catalan that has earned criticisms from lawmakers and various sectors of society.

Aside from Lim and Espinosa, the DOJ also cleared convicted drug lord Peter Co, Lovely Impal, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and several others known only by their aliases.

The DOJ faulted the PNP-CIDG for presenting weak evidence and the “inconsistencies” in the testimony of its lone witness, Marcelo Adorco, as the reason for dismissing the case.

The PNP said it was saddened by the decision that it termed as a “temporary setback” but added it will revive the charges and seek the conviction of Lim, Espinosa and the rest.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. John Bulalacao said CIDG Director Roel Obusan has asked Aguirre to review the DOJ resolution that was released last December 20 but made known public only last Monday.

Bulalacao said the PNP respects the decision of the DOJ panel that said the case against the suspects was weak. “But we do not agree, that is why we filed a petition for automatic review by the DOJ,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the administration also expressed concern over the DOJ decision but stressed the dismissal of the complaint is not final.

Roque also denied that the dismissal was because President Duterte and Lim were co-wedding sponsors in the past, adding that such allegation is unfair.

“It’s unfair to say that it is because they are co-wedding sponsors. All government officials who attend weddings would not be able to choose who their co-wedding sponsors would be as the decision lies on the coupe to be wed. So I think there is no basis for such allegation. Let us just allow the process to move forward,” he said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the dismissal underscored what he said is the “fake war” of the Duterte administration against illegal drugs.

Sen. Grace Poe said she was surprised by the decision considering that Espinosa even admitted before a Senate inquiry that he was indeed involved in the narcotics trade.

Last Monday, PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa said: “We filed an MR (motion for reconsideration) regarding the junking of the case…We will use all our legal remedies to hold them (suspects) accountable.”

Obusan said: “We believe that our case has merit, thus we filed an MR (motion for reconsideration) and it is being looked into and we are still very positive that we will win over, we can file the case.”

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said the dismissal of the charges highlights the political nature of the war on drugs of the Duterte administration, which he termed as a “fake war.”

He said the dismissal should be taken in the context of the drug charges against opposition Sen. Leila De Lima.

“The DOJ was able to use basic requirements of corpus delicti and the need for credible witnesses in their case, matters that were conveniently dropped by the DOJ in Sen. De Lima’s case. The amendment of the charges, the use of disqualified witnesses, dispensing with the need for evidence-these are all signs of political persecution in the case of Sen. De Lima,” he explained.

“Friends, allies, useful witnesses are exonerated, while political dissents are incarcerated on bogus charges,” he added.
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