MANILA - Confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa on Friday appeared at a court hearing despite an earlier letter saying he could not attend because of possible threats to his life.
Espinosa, son of slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, wore a bullet proof vest and shades when he arrived at the sala of Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Silvino Pampilo.
The National Bureau of Investigation is keeping a tight watch on Espinosa after his lawyer, Ronda Vice Mayor Jonah John Ungab, was killed in an ambush in Cebu City.
"Ang lawyer ko in-ambush sa Cebu, namatay... Sa ngayon po ako ay walang lawyer," he told reporters, adding that he has no idea why Ungab was killed.
Evidence on Espinosa's cases on illegal drug trading and distribution were supposed to be presented during the hearing, but he asked that it be postponed as he looks for a new lawyer.
In the most recent hearing on the case last month, a witness recalled his testimony and said he was forced to link Espinosa to the illegal drug trade in Eastern Visayas.
Jose Antepuesto, a welder who was earlier arrested for drug pushing, said he signed the affidavit in exchange for the police's promise he would not be implicated.
Earlier, the prosecution also sought that Pampilo inhibit from the hearing because of his alleged bias.
"Mahirap sa'kin na mag-proceed kung hindi mo pinagkakatiwalaan...Sana nga huwag na sa kanya...Wala naman talagang personalan...At this point the prosecution has lost its trust kasi baka hindi na siya maging impartial sa paghawak ng kaso," said Assistant Prosecutor Christian Bachiller.
Bachiller said their side hopes the case would be raffled to another judge.
In a statement, Pampilo said his handling of the case should not be turned into a personal issue.
"Kung ano man ang maging desisyon sana walang personalan. Kasi marami nang napatay sa kasong ito," he said.
The court will decide if Pampilo should inhibit within 3 to 5 days.
- report from Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News