Fake drug war! Senators slam DOJ’s clearing drug lords of charges
by Xave Gregorio
Administration and opposition senators hit the Department of Justice (DOJ) for dismissing charges against several individuals accused of drug trading, including Kerwin Espinosa, who confessed his involvement in drug trading in a Senate hearing.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV called the drug war waged by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte “fake,” as evidenced by the exoneration of the alleged drug lords.
“Kapag mahirap, walang tanong-tanong, patay agad. Kapag druglords at kumpare pa ni Duterte, may due process na, abswelto pa sa kaso,” Trillanes said, referring to Peter Go Lim, among those exonerated by the DOJ, who stood as sponsor in a wedding along with Duterte.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the DOJ’s dropping of charges against Espinosa, Lim and 16 others “is a blow to government credibility in its anti-drug operations/ program.”
“More so Peter Lim was identified by the President as a big fish and Espinosa admitting in open session of his drug dealings,” Recto said.
Senator JV Ejercito noted that Espinosa admitted in Senate hearings that he transacted illegal drugs as early as 2005 and raked earnings reaching P40 to P50 million annually.
Lim was tagged by the Philippine National Police (PNP) as the supplier of drugs to Espinosa who allegedly headed a drug trading ring.
Opposition Senators Bam Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan said the dismissal of charges against the alleged drug lords casts doubt on the Duterte’s drug war and proves that it is only for the poor and not for the rich who have money and connections.
“Ang hustisya sa bayan ay tila para sa iilan lamang at hindi para sa bawat Pilipino,” Aquino said.
“Pagka kalaban iniipit, pagkamalaki at malaks ay inaabswelto. Hindi ito tama,” Pangilinan said in an interview.
Espinosa was among those who testified against Senator Leila de Lima in Senate hearings and claimed that he paid the senator P8 million in “protection money.”
These testimonies became the basis of the criminal complaints filed against De Lima which landed her in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
However, Trillanes and Pangilinan said that with the DOJ not finding enough evidence against Espinosa and other alleged drug lords, the cases against De Lima should also be junked.
“Dapat talagang sana aksyunan na ng Korte Supreme ang mga petisyon ni Senator De LIma para sa lalong madaling panahon siya ay makakawala na dahil kwestyonable ang basehan o ‘yung ebidensiyang pinapakita ng mga testigo laban sa kanya,” Pangilinan said.
Senators Ejercito and Grace Poe, both members of the Senate majority, also said the clearing of Espinosa, Lim and others negatively impact the drug war of the Duterte administration.
“This decision sends mixed signals to the public in terms of our resolve to wage war against anyone dealing with illegal drugs, regardless of stature in life and the friends they have in high places,” Ejercito said.
Poe said: “If this DOJ decision is affirmed by the Secretary of Justice, this would be an insult to the brave policemen who have died in legitimate anti-drug operations.”
The clearing of the individuals allegedly involved in bigtime drug operations is set to be reviewed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. Senator Panfilo Lacson hopes for a reversal when the case reaches Aguirre’s hands.
“Based on the evidence unearthed and presented during the Senate hearings, at least in the case of Kerwin Espinosa, I would like to think that probable cause would have been clearly established,” Lacson said.
Poe and Ejercito are also calling on the DOJ to continue gathering more evidence to prove that the accused are involved in drugs.
Poe even scored DOJ prosecutor Jorge Catalan for “lazily relying on this single witness,” after he called the statements of the witness against the alleged drug lords “self-serving and contradictory.”
“This should have prompted them to use the entire machinery of the State’s prosecution arm to gather more testimonial and object evidence,” Poe said.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto wants Congress to investigate the dismissals and “find out what to do to strengthen the laws or find out if there were disregard of laws on prosecution.”