Justice denied

Many have criticized the decision of the Department of Justice to dismiss the drug charges against self-confessed drug lord, Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, and 20 other respondents who were linked in illegal drug trade, due to lack of evidence.

Just like the PNP Chief, several senators and congressmen who have expressed their concern on the DoJ’s decision, I am equally alarmed why the DoJ dismissed the case despite the evidences presented to the court and to the previous Senate investigation.

In a Senate hearing, Espinosa testified that he used to earn P50 million annually in illegal drug trade, while giving out P20 million worth of protection money to those within his illegal drug network. He also admitted giving at least P3 million to the police official who was in charge of the raid that resulted to the killing of his father, former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa. All of these facts he stated while under oath, yet it was declared by the DoJ that there was insufficient evidence.

Is the DoJ trying to make fools out of us here?

Senator De Lima was indicted on allegations that she conspired with these personalities. Does this mean that the charges against Senator De Lima are baseless? Espinosa himself admitted to giving money to the senator, per today’s news reports.

Even President Duterte, who has been aggressive in his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs was dismayed of the DoJ’s decision, that he admonished Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II during the joint command conference of the AFP and PNP in Malacañang on Tuesday. It was the President who tagged Peter Lim as a member of a drug triad in the country; yet the Secretary of Justice seemed to be misinformed.

How can he just let these drug lords go off the hook just like that? It seems that he is not properly aligned with the President. I hope that the President will stay true to his words that he will invoke his power of supervision and control, and will review the dismissal order.

Let us not forget that this is not the first time that SOJ disappointed us. Two of his fraternity brothers who were Bureau of Immigration commissioners, Al Argosino and Michael Robles, allegedly attempted to extort P50 million from gambling tycoon, Jack Lam, in exchange of the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals who were arrested for violating Philippine immigration law and were due for deportation. These Chinese nationals were employees of Jack Lam in his illegal online gaming hub. The case of the two was downgraded from plunder, a non-bailable offense, to graft and direct bribery. According to Secretary Aguirre, they counted the surrendered money and it lacked one P1,000 bill, making it less than Php 50 million, the threshold amount for a plunder case.

Last week, the DoJ also dismissed the charges filed by the military and police against a suspected ISIS recruiter and his Filipina live-in partner. Tunisian national Fehmi Lassqued or Haytan Abdulhamid Yusof and his live-in partner Anabel Moncera Salipada were charged for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The police were able to seize explosive devices from their apartment, yet the couple was cleared of the charges due to insufficient evidence. To me, this is more than just a case of illegal possession of firearms, but actually a threat to national security, due to the probable link of the accused to ISIS.

The Justice secretary will be reminded that he is part of the President’s Executive family. In matters falling under his jurisdiction, generally, his actions and decisions are deemed those of the President’s. Just two years into his term, and already, the integrity of his office and attached agencies are under question. This is alarming, given the vast powers that the Secretary of Justice can exercise. In this light, we call upon the President to review the personalities of his official family and determine their fitness to hold their positions.    

Topics: Peter Lim , President Rodrigo Duterte , Department of Justice , Kerwin Espinosa , Leila De Lima
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