Aguirre blames DOJ prosecutors, CIDG for clearing drug kingpins
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II (right) and Undersecretary Erickson Balmes â"EDWIN BACASMAS
After President Rodrigo Duterte took him to task, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday blamed several prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for throwing out the drug trafficking charges against Peter Lim and other narcotics dealers.
Aguirre also blamed the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for not including the confession of Kerwin Espinosa in the Senate when the police filed charges against him and other suspects.
Espinosa pointed to Lim as his supplier at a Senate hearing in 2016.ADVERTISEMENT
The DOJ panel of prosecutors said weak evidence presented by the CIDG and the inconsisten cies in the testimony of Marcelo Adorco, the lone witness, prompted them to absolve Lim and his fellow respondents.
Lim was identified by Mr. Duterte in July 2016 as one of the people behind the illegal narcotics trade in the Visayas and even threatened to kill him.
In the wake of public outrage over the exoneration of the drug suspects, Aguirre on Wednesday issued Department Order No. 152 directing the National Bureau of Investigation to place the DOJ prosecutors, including Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan, under investigation.
He ordered the NBI to do a âcase buildup to determine possible misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance or other violations of (the) lawâ against Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Aristotle Reyes.
Reyes, who had handled other controversial drug cases such as the seizure in May of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs from China, was recently designated by Mr. Dutert e as a Regional Trial Court judge of Lucena City.
Undersecretary Erickson Balmes, the DOJ spokesperson, said Catalan and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassendel Rex Gingoyon would also be investigated since they both reviewed and approved the resolution, which was originally issued on Dec. 20, 2017.ADVERTISEMENT
The resolution throwing out the complaint was kept from the public until journalists covering the justice beat obtained a copy from a DOJ insider on Monday.
Besides Lim and Espinosa, also saved from facing trial were convicted drug lord Peter Co, Adorco, Lovely Impal, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and several others known only by their aliases.
Lawmakers denounced as selective justice the exoneration of the suspected drug kingpins even as thousands of poor pushers and users get killed.
Amid the outcry, Mr. Duterte ordered on Tuesday a review of the decision to dismiss complaints agai nst the suspects.
According to Balmes, Aguirre learned of the dismissal of the drug charges only when it came out in the media but admitted that Aguirreâs office received a copy of the resolution more than a month ago.
âAs per Catalan, it was forwarded to (Aguirreâs office) [in] February for automatic review. We do not order anything on these cases since [they are subject to] automatic review,â Balmes said in a text message to reporters.
Why only last Tuesday?
âBut it was only (last Tuesday) when the justice secretary learned of the development in this case,â he added.
Aguirre, who was attending the national convention of DOJ prosecutors in Tacloban City, said the resolution was submitted to his office for review âa little more than one monthâ ago.
âThe resolution was reviewed by three more prosecutors: the reviewing (prosecutor), recommending (prosecutor) and Catalan [as] the approving prosecutor,â Aguirre said in a text message to the Inquirer.
As to Mr. Duterteâs warning that he would put Aguirre in jail if Lim and Espinosa would go scot-free, he said: âItâs unfortunate, but I have nothing to do with the issuance of the resolution.â
âWe could only intervene if the case is brought to us [through] a petition for review or on automatic review. That has yet to happen,â he said.
Back to square one
In a press briefing, CIDG Director Roel Obusan said Espinosaâs Senate testimony was excluded from the evidence to support the charges because he retracted his statements when he appeared at the preliminary investigation.
Obusan on Wednesday said the CIDG would be basically back to square one as it compiled evidence with a new DOJ panel of prosecutorâs reviewing the case with fresh eyes.
The CIDG, he said, might use its new power to issue subpoenas in fortifying its case against Espinosa and his alleged coconspirators. â"W ITH REPORTS FROM FAYE ORELLANA AND ADOR VINCENT S. MAYOLDon't miss out on the latest news and information.
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