DOJ chief: Dismissal of case vs. alleged drug lords still up for review

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Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 20) — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the dismissal of drug charges against alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and others are still up for review.

"I issued an order yesterday vacating the dismissal of the case, so much so that there is no dismissal anymore, and I ordered that the case be ordered wide open for both parties," Aguirre said in a Malacañang briefing Tuesday.

He said he issued the order following the backlash on the dropping of charges against alleged drug lords Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, convicted drug lord Peter Co, and more than 20 other drug suspects.

"Because of the backlash caused by some people with ill motives coupled with politics, nagkaroon po ng di magandang perception ang public, dito sa isyu na ito [the public developed a negative perception of this issue," he said.

In a 41-page resolution made public on March 12, the Task Force on Anti-illegal Drugs under the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the dismissal of the police's complaint against the suspects due to lack of evidence.

"The prosecution still has the chance to strengthen its evidence by securing a copy of the transcript, stenographic notes, and submitting it to the panel," Aguirre said.

During the Senate hearings on the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison last year, Espinosa said he gave millions of pesos in drug money to police officers, generals, and other government officials, including then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in exchange for the protection of his illegal drug trade business.

The son of slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, he also told the Senate he was a drug dealer from Eastern Visayas. 

Aguirre also said the DOJ will study the motion for reconsideration of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group against the DOJ ruling.

The dismissal of the case was signed on December 20, 2017 by assistant state prosecutors and approved by Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan.

Aguirre said the case has been reassigned to a new set of prosecutors. He added the prosecutors who earlier handled the case should have been impartial and they are now under investigation. 

Meanwhile, Lim is a Cebu-based businessman who, together with Co, were included in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug matrix. He has since denied the allegations and vowed to help in the drug war.