2 co-accused in Lim, Espinosa drug raps already dead

MANILA — Two of the co-accused in the drug charges filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) against businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa are already dead, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed Tuesday.

Based on the returned subpoenas received by the DOJ, it confirmed that Max Miro and Noel “Jun” Pepito were killed in separate incidents.

DOJ learned that Miro died last March 10 in a police operation conducted by the Ormoc Police in Barangay Bantigue, Ormoc City, while Pepito was killed by unidentified riding-in-tandem suspects in Albuera, Leyte on Dec. 1, 2017.

Also named as respondents in the complaint against Lim and Espinosa are convicted drug lord Peter Co, alleged drug supplier Lovely Impal, arrested alleged drug dealer Marcelo Adorco, Ruel Malindangan, and several others who are only known by the aliases Amang, Ricky, Warren, Tupie, Jojo, Jaime, Yawa, Lapi, Royroy, Marlon, and Bay.

Based on the subpoena issued by the DOJ, the respondents are required to attend the first hearing set at 1 p.m. on April 12.

The new panel of prosecutors assigned by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, Assistant State Prosecutor Anna Norren Devanadera, and Prosecution Attorney Herbert Calvin Abugan.

Aguirre said the new panel of prosecutors is empowered to continue the preliminary investigation on the cases against the two alleged drug kingpins.

He made the move after being criticized when a panel of prosecutors of the DOJ issued the Dec. 20, 2017 resolution that dismissed the drug complaint filed by the PNP-CIDG’s Major Crimes Investigation Unit (MCIU).

In his order dated March 19, Aguirre said, “The Resolution dated Dec. 20, 2017 dismissing this instant case be vacated and the above-mentioned case be remanded to a new panel of prosecutors for purposes of conducting the continuation of the preliminary investigation/clarificatory hearing and to allow the complainant and respondents to submit additional pieces of evidence in support of their respective positions.”

The justice chief indicated in his order that he gave the directive pursuant to his powers provided under Republic Act No. 10071 (Prosecution Service Act of 2010) in relation to DOJ Department Circular No. 004, dated Jan. 4, 2017 regarding the automatic review of criminal complaints.

The measure, Aguirre said, would allow the parties, including the CIDG, to submit additional evidence in support of their respective positions.

The resolution, made by Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John M. Humarang and Aristotle M. Reyes, recommended the dismissal of the case against Lim, Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co, Adorco, Miro, Impal, Malindagan, Pepito, and several others known only by their aliases.

The resolution, affirmed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rex F. Gingoyon and approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan, cited the lack of evidence and supposed inconsistencies in the testimony of Espinosa’s aide Adorco, the lone witness cited in the CIDG complaint.

The CIDG maintained that any inconsistency on the part of Adorco was minor and did not affect the testimony on material points proving Espinosa’s liability.

The police said Espinosa conspired with several drug couriers and “shabu” suppliers Lim, Co, and Impal, to sell and distribute drugs from Makati City to selected areas in central and eastern Visayas.

While maintaining that the dismissal was not the final verdict on the case, Aguirre and the original panel have said it was not the DOJ prosecution’s duty to gather evidence for either the complainant or the respondents. PNA-northboundasia.com