The Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, and 20 others of drug charges due to lack of evidence, according to a resolution released Monday, March 12.
In a resolution dated December 20, 2017, the DOJ dismissed the complaint for sale, administration, dispensation, trading, delivery and transportation of illegal drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act against the respondents.
Espinosa had earlier confessed that he was a drug dealer. Lim, on the other hand, was previously named by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the country’s biggest drug lords. Espinosa had tagged Lim as one of his suppliers of shabu (crystal meth).
Apart from Espinosa and Lim, also cleared were alleged New Bilibid Prison (NBP) drug trafficker Peter Co, Marcelo Adorco, Jermy Amang, Lovely Impal, Ruel Malindangan, Max Miro, Jun Pepito, and several others identified only by their aliases.
The case was filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) last year.
But Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes found no probable cause against Espinosa, Lim and several others.
Prosecutors said the complainant has “failed to present any circumstantial evidence to prove respondents’ illegal drug transactions.
“It is undeniable that the evidence in this case is grossly insufficient to justify a finding of probable cause that respondents engaged in the illegal drug trade,” prosecutors added.
The resolution was approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the decision on the case can still be reviewed either through “a motion for reconsideration, or ultimately, by way of automatic review” of his office.
Following the controversial dismissal of charges against alleged drug lords, a frustrated Duterte, who is notable for his intense campaign against illegal drugs, said he would review the case himself.
In a series of social media post, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque quoted Duterte venting his ire to Aguirre: “‘Pag nakawala ‘yan si Lim at Espinosa, siya ang ipapalit ko. (If Lim and Espinosa get away, he will replace them.) I can review that dismissal order. Nag-amin na nga sa Congress (He [Espinosa] already confessed in Congress)! Why not admit it as evidence against him?”
“I will invoke my power of supervision and control and will review dismissal,” Duterte also said, according to Roque.
The PNP, for its part, has filed a motion for reconsideration to reverse the decision clearing the drug charges against Espinosa, Lim, and others.
“It’s on appeal. We filed a motion for reconsideration in the junking of the case of Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa. We will use all legal remedies to make sure they are held liable,” PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa told reporters.