MANILA - (UPDATED) The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) did not use Kerwin Espinosa's confession of his alleged drug dealings when the police unit filed charges against him and his supposed cohorts, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday.
"'Yun pong sinasabi nilang admission ni Kerwin sa Senado, wala pong nag-file niyan. Hindi po iyan isinubmit bilang ebidensya dito sa kaso," Aguirre said in a radio DZMM interview.
(Kerwin's admission before the Senate was not filed, submitted as evidence in this case.)
The justice secretary has come under fire after the National Prosecution Service (NPS) dismissed the drug trading charges against Espinosa, alleged drug kingpins Peter Co and Peter Lim, and 19 others due to insufficient evidence.
This, despite Espinosa's sworn statement during a 2016 Senate hearing, where he tagged Co and Lim as his supposed narcotics suppliers, and named several police officials as his protectors.
In the interview, Aguirre said prosecutors can only use the statements of high-profile drug suspects if these are submitted as evidence.
"Ang mga fiscal, hindi obligadong makinig [sa Senate hearing]. At kahit nakinig sila, unless we are submitting evidence, hindi po iko-consider iyun," he said.
(It is not the obligation of prosecutors to listen to Senate hearings. And even if they did so, unless the testimonies were submitted as evidence, they will not consider this.)
He urged the CIDG to attach the transcript of Espinosa's testimony to a motion for reconsideration seeking to overturn the dismissal of the drug raps.
CIDG EXPLAINS OMISSION
CIDG chief Director Roel Obusan, meanwhile, explained that Espinosa's Senate testimony was not used in the complaint because he refused to corroborate this during the preliminary investigation.
"Ang expectation ko noon... kapag tinawag na siya -- when in truth and in fact, tinawag siya -- ay magsasalita siya. To my dismay, si Kerwin, hindi nagsalita," he told reporters hours after Aguirre's interview.
(My expectation was the when he is summoned -- when in truth and in fact, he was called -- he will speak up. To my dismay, Kerwin did not.)
Obusan said he wrote to Aguirre in December 2017 asking him to revoke Espinosa's temporary admission to the government's Witness Protection Program due to his refusal to cooperate.
The complaint against Espinosa instead cited the affidavit of his self-confessed bodyguard and driver Marcelo Adorco, who confessed to running drug errands for his boss, said Obusan.
"Itong kaniyang driver na si Adorco ay may direct participation sa paglaganap ng droga. Iyung direct participation na iyun, it's no longer hearsay. It does need any corroboration coming from a person directly involved sa paggawa ng kasalanan," said the official.
(His driver Adorco had direct participation in the spread of drugs. That direct participation is no longer hearsay. It does need any corroboration coming from a person directly involved in committing the crime.)
Asked if the CIDG will try to include Espinosa's statement in the supplementary motion for reconsideration, Obusan said, "Why not?"
NEW PROSECUTOR PANEL
Aguirre said he has tapped a new panel of prosecutors to tackle the motion to overturn the case.
He said he has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the original panel that junked the raps for any possible misfeasance, malfeasance or non-feasance or other violations of law.
"Ginawa namin ito hindi sapagkat hindi tayo naniniwala or inaakusahan natin ang ating panel of prosecutors, but to dispel any doubt na itong dating panel of prosecutors ay mayroong maaaring may kinasasangkutang hindi maganda," he said.
(We did this not because we believe in the allegation or because we are accusing our panel of prosecutors, but to dispel any doubt that the former panel of prosecutors was involved in anything unpleasant.)
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said President Duterte admonished Aguirre 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.