MANILA - State prosecutors who resolved to dismiss the drug case against alleged big-time drug lords Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co, and several others welcomed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to have them investigated.
This even as former Assistant State Prosecutor and now Lucena City Regional Trial Court Judge Aristotle Reyes and Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John Humarang insisted that the dismissal of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) complaint was due to the weakness of evidence submitted for preliminary investigation.
Apart from Reyes and Humarang, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rassendell Rex Gingoyon and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr., who approved the resolution, are also subject to the investigation ordered by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
“Actually, medyo siyempre as former prosecutor, nakakalungkot na parang ganyan ang naging resulta ng trabaho namin, na hindi naman kami puwede magde-decide against isang tao na wala namang ebidensya, dahil lang sa public clamor. Pero we welcome the investigation. We will submit to the investigation para ma-clear din kami kung ano 'yung mga insinuations against us. Talagang magsa-submit kami [to the investigation],” Reyes said in an interview on DZMM radio.
Humarang, for his part, said: “I welcome the reinvestigation of the case. We stand ready to face the probe. Malinis ang aming konsiyensiya at makikita naman na complainant [CIDG] did not present sufficient evidence but instead relied only on the testimony of its sole witness.”
The case involves the alleged distribution of at least 90-kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (“shabu”) in Regions 7 and 8 by Espinosa’s group in 2013 and 2015. The complaint also alleged that four similar drug transactions and deliveries, with an unspecified volume of “shabu,” took place in 2014 with Lim as supplier.
Apart from Espinosa, Lim, who the complaint described as the same druglord known as ‘Jaguar,’ and Co, now serving time at the New Bilibid Prisons, the other respondents in the case are Marcelo Adorco, Max Miro, Lovely Impal, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito, Jermy alias ‘Amang,’ alias ‘Ricky,’ alias ‘Warren,’ alias ‘Tupie,’ alias ‘Jojo,’ alias ‘Jaime,’ alias ‘Yawa,’ alias ‘Lapi,’ alias ‘Royroy,’ alias ‘Marlon,’ alias ‘Bay,’ and several unidentified others.
HOW THE PANEL RULED
The CIDG’s sole witness in its complaint was respondent Adorco, whose testimony was “unreliable,” “uncorroborated,” and “inconsistent,” according to the panel.
“Obviously, the rise or fall of complainant’s case will depend solely on the testimonies of its only witness, Adorco. Under the circumstances, this panel is constrained to take a close scrutiny of the several statements given by the said witness.
“Assessing Adorco’s allegations in his affidavits, we, however, find the same unworthy of consideration. His testimonies are rife with inconsistencies and contradictions, and run against the standards of human experience and the logical course of reality,” the resolution read.
“Indeed, for an evidence to be believed, it must proceed not only from the mouth of a credible witness but must be credible in itself as to hurdle the test of conformity with the knowledge and common experience of mankind,” it added.
The panel pointed out that two of Adorco’s three sworn statements, the ones dated June 21, 2017 and September 13, 2017, were intended to give details on respondents’ respective participation in the alleged conspiracy.
The panel, however, noted that “these only reveal glaring inconsistencies, not merely in some trivial or innocuous allegations, but more importantly, with respect to the substantial averments pertaining to respondents’ involvement and complicity in the alleged illegal drugs transactions.”
ADORCO’S AFFIDAVITS ON PETER LIM’S ALLEGED COMPLICITY
In his first sworn statement, Adorco claimed he personally met Peter Lim in Thailand in 2014.
In Adorco’s second sworn statement, he corrected the date and specified that this incident happened on June 4, 2015. He also specified that they were billeted at Eurotel while in Thailand.
In his third affidavit, Adorco failed to supply more details about his alleged meeting with Lim in Thailand.
The panel also pointed out that Adorco, in his first and second sworn statements, claimed they met Co at the Metropolican Hospital in 2014.
However, in his third sworn statement, Adorco alleged he met Co at the said hospital in 2015.
The panel also cited another inconsistency in Adorco’s affidavits: he pointed out in his second affidavit that it was a certain “Bay,” whom he identified as one of Co’s men, who handed him “shabu” at Cash and Carry. But in his third affidavit, Adorco identified “Bay” as one of Lim’s men.
HOW MUCH ‘SHABU’ WAS TRANSACTED?
In his second affidavit, Adorco said there were more or less four drug transactions between Espinosa and Lim in 2014, though he did not know the exact amount.
In his third affidavit, however, Adorco already claimed that each of the four transactions involved 40 kilos of “shabu.”
In Adorco’s first affidavit, he claimed that after arriving from Thailand, Lim called Espinosa and Adorco allegedly heard them talk about a delivery of 20 kilos of “shabu.”
In Adorco’s second affidavit, he said the “shabu” transaction involved 50-kilos.
The panel also pointed out that Adorco gave “conflicting accounts of the details of the Kerwin-Peter Co and the Kerwin-Peter Lim drug transactions.”
“In his first two affidavits, Adorco narrates the transactions of respondents Kerwin [Espinosa], Peter Lim, Lovely Impal, and Peter Co started in 2013, while in his Karagdagang Sinumpaang Salaysay (third affidavit), he is already alleging transactions beginning in 2012," the resolution said.
“In addition, in his [second affidavit], Adorco states that from February 5, 2013, until the end of 2014, Kerwin and Peter Co completed a total of four illegal drug transactions at 20 kilos each. However, in his [third affidavit] , Adorco recollects that in the year 2013 alone, there were four successful transactions between Kerwin and Lovely, together with Peter Co’s men,” it read.
As to the Espinosa-Lim alleged transactions, Adorco, in his second affidavit, “never” alleged the number of transactions in 2013, except for one on February 16, 2013. But in his third affidavit, Adorco “suddenly remembers” that there were four transactions in 2013 between Espinosa and Lim.
“What’s more is that in Adorco’s second affidavit… the quantity of ‘shabu’ allegedly transacted on February 16, 2013 was only 20-kilos, while in his [third affidavit], all four transactions in 2013 involved 30 kilos each,” the resolution stated.
These are some of the “inconsistencies” in Adorco’s sworn statements raised in the panel’s resolutions.
DOJ: ADORCO’S INCONSISTENCIES ‘MATERIAL’ AND IMPAIRED THE PROBATIVE VALUE OF TESTIMONY
These inconsistencies “pertaining to dates and place of meeting with drug supplier where the initial drug deal was made; the months and years covering the drug transactions and the volume of drugs involved; the number of drug deliveries and quantity involved; the identity of the alleged drug courier of the supplier who delivered the drugs; the persons present during the time the drug deal was hatched, cannot be considered inconsequential.”
The resolution said these are “material” inconsistencies because they “relate directly to the fact in issue, that is the illegal drug transactions among the respondents.” The resolution also stressed “[t]hese inconsistencies seriously affect the coherence of Adorco’s narration."
“To our view, the above discrepancies in Adorco’s affidavits have seriously impaired their probative value and have cast serious doubt on their credibility. His contradictory statements on important details simply eroded the integrity and veracity of his testimony,” the resolution stated.
In his interview over DZMM, Reyes said it was not surprising for Adorco to change his testimonies because he fears the CIDG, based on media interviews with Ozamiz City police chief Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, who had apprehended Adorco.
“So in custody ni Espenido si Adorco na magbibigay na ng statement… habang pini-prepare na 'yung judicial affidavit, kinuha siya ngayon ng CIDG at tinactical interrogation. In the process na kinunan na ng statement ng CIDG, ang sabi ni Espenido, hindi mo ma-expect magbigay ng full disclosure 'yan, ng full details, dahil takot yan sa CIDG,” Reyes said.
ESPINOSA SENATE TESTIMONY NOT SUBMITTED AS EVIDENCE TO DOJ
The panel also clarified that Espinosa’s admission at a Senate hearing that he was behind the distribution of “shabu” in the Visayas region was never submitted as evidence by the CIDG, which is why it was not considered in the resolution of the case.
Espinosa later recanted that testimony.
“Walang sinubmit na ganyan ang CIDG. In fact, sabi ng CIDG, hindi talaga namin i-submit 'yan because si Kerwin nag-retract.... Sino ba naman napakalakas na loob na tao na lalaruin ganyang klaseng kaso? Nag-rule lang kami based sa evidence at saka sa law. Kung talagang wala [evidence], kahit sino ka, kahit sabihing kaalyado ka ng admnistrasyon o kalaban ka ng ano, kung talang wala [evidence], nire-resolve namin 'yan, idi-dismiss namin ang case,” Reyes said.
Reyes said he feels saddened by the backlash, but maintained confidence the National Prosecution Service (NPS) will be cleared in the probe.
The resolution went through a tedious process, he stressed, including the process of review and approval by their superiors, Gingoyon and Catalan.
Reyes explained the first draft was signed by him and Humarang on December 30, 2017, and after the two levels of review, was finalized and officially released in late January. The resolution was forwarded for automatic review to the office of Secretary Aguirre on February 12.
The review by Aguirre did not proceed in view of the filing of a motion for reconsideration by the CIDG.