MANILA - The Makabayan bloc on Wednesday urged Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to step down after a panel of prosecutors cleared self-confessed narcotics trafficker Kerwin Espinosa and his alleged cohorts of drug charges.
At the same time, left-leaning members of the 7-partylist bloc called on the administration to stop targeting the poor in its anti-drug war and instead run after big-time traffickers.
"Kung may delicadeza si Aguirre, dapat mag-resign na siya bago siya sibakin ni Pangulong Digong at mag-concentrate ang ating gobyerno... [na] habulin ang mga smugglers, mga malalaking isda na talagang may kinalaman sa droga,” ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said in a press conference.
A panel from the justice department's National Prosecutors Service (NPS) had dismissed drug trafficking charges against Espinosa, his alleged drug suppliers Peter Lim and Peter Co, and 19 others due to insufficient evidence.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate questioned the decision, saying Espinosa had confessed in a 2016 Senate hearing that he sourced drugs from Lim and Co.
"Nasa kanila na ebidensiya, may pag-amin na openly sa Senate hearing. Ano'ng palusot ng DOJ na mahina ang kaso?" he said.
(They have the evidence, there is an admission before a Senate hearing. What is DOJ's excuse in saying that the case is weak?)
"Talagang dito nagsasabwatan ang ahensiya para mailigtas ang mga tunay na dahilan bakit nagkakaroon ng malawakang problema sa droga sa bayan,” he added.
(Government agencies are conspiring to save the real reason behind the country's massive drug problem.)
Aguirre had revealed that Espinosa's confession was not included in the drug trafficking charges lodged by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
The NPS, he said, cannot consider evidence not included in complaints.
Citing the NPS law, Aguirre also said he could not interfere with how prosecutors handle any case until it has been elevated to the Department of Justice for review.
The CIDG, for its part, said it did not use Espinosa's Senate confession because he refused to corroborate this during the preliminary investigation.
The police unit said it would try to include Espinosa's statement in the supplementary motion for reconsideration to overturn the NPS ruling.