MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte was disappointed over the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to dismiss charges against drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim, his spokesperson said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte admonished Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III over the state prosecutors’ decision to clear Espinosa, a confessed drug lord, Lim, and several others of drug charges.
“[Kapag] nakawala yan si Lim at Espinosa, siya ang ipapalit ko. I can review that dismissal order. Nag-amin na nga sa Congress! Why not admit it as evidence against him?” Roque quoted Duterte as saying.
“I will invoke my power of supervision and control and will review dismissal,” the President said, according to Roque.
Duterte made the remarks during the joint command conference of the military and police in Malacañang.
Roque said that during the command conference, it was decided that the Philippine National Police will appeal the DOJ’s decision to clear the alleged drug personalities of the charges.
He also said that Aguirre has formed a new investigation panel to review cases against Lim and Espinosa.
Duterte earlier tagged Peter Lim as the Visayan member of the drug triad in the Philippines. The two other alleged drug bigwigs the President identified were Peter Co and Herbert Colanggo, who are both behind bars in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Lim, who is apparently Duterte’s wedding co-sponsor (kumpadre), met with the President in Davao City in July 2016 to discuss the allegations.
Espinosa, meanwhile, testified before a Senate hearing that he was earning P50 million yearly in the illegal drug trade while giving out P20 million in protection money to individuals linked to his illegal drug network.
He told senators he gave at least P3 million to the police official behind the raid that led to the killing of his father, former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa.
According to a Dec. 20, 2017 resolution approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. and made public only on Monday, the DOJ cleared Espinosa, Lim and 20 others of drug charges due to lack of evidence.
"Our law enforcement agencies shall gather more concrete and competent evidence proving that respondents and other individuals are indeed involved in illegal drug activities," the DOJ resolution read.
Police can file charges again but they have to make sure that these are backed by more evidence and corroborated testimonies, the DOJ said.
Aguirre said the decision can still be reviewed either through a "a motion for reconsideration, or ultimately, by way of automatic review" of his office.
"The dismissal is a slight bump on the war against drugs, it is likewise a wake up to all concerned that our efforts, from apprehension to resolution to conviction must be concerted and thorough," Aguirre said in a statement.
"Suffice it to say that the current status of the case against the respondents Peter Lim et al., does not mean that it is a final exoneration [from] their respective criminal liabilities," he said