MANILA - State prosecutors weigh evidence against alleged criminals, but cannot gather proof against them.
So said a former prosecutor on Thursday as he defended his panel's decision to junk the drug charges against self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and his alleged cohorts due to lack of evidence.
"Magre-rely lang kami sa evidence na isa-submit sa amin. Hindi kami puwedeng, on our own, ang maghanap ng ebidensya para sa parties. Otherwise, magiging lawyer kami ng CIDG," panel member Aristotle Reyes, who is now a court judge, told radio DZMM.
(We can only rely on the evidence submitted against us. We cannot, on our own, find evidence for the parties. Otherwise, we will serve as lawyers of the CIDG.)
The charges, lodged by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, did not include Espinosa's confession in a 2016 Senate inquiry where he named his co-repondents Peter Lim and Peter Co as his alleged drug suppliers.
Reyes said the National Prosecutor Service cannot act as CIDG's lawyer and advise police on what should be included in the raps.
The NPS, he said, junked the police's "very weak" case because the affidavit of its lone witness, Marcelo Adarco, was rife with "material inconsistencies" about the dates of Espinosa's supposed criminal dealing and the identity of his alleged drug courier.
The CIDG had said it did not use the Senate confession of Espinosa because he recanted this during the preliminary investigation and denied Adorco's claim.
The police said it will try anew to get Espinosa's confession for a supplemental motion of reconsideration to overturn the NPS ruling, as suggested by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.
Aguirre, who had reportedly earned the President's ire over the junking of the case, has set up a new panel to tackle the motion of reconsideration.
He has also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Reyes' original panel for any possible misfeasance, malfeasance or non-feasance or other violations of law.
Reyes said his panel will submit to the probe to dispel insinuations that they made money after clearing Espinosa and other respondents of drug charges.
"Nakakalungkot na parang ganyan ang naging resulta nung trabaho namin na hindi naman kami puwedeng mag-decide na against sa isang tao nang wala namang ebidensya at dahil sa public clamor," he said.
(It is sad that that was the result of our work when we could not have ruled against a person when there is no evidence against him and just because of public clamor.)
"Nag-rule lang kami based on evidence and law. Kung talagang wala, kahit sino ka -- kahit sinasabing kaalyado ka ng administrasyon o kalaban ka -- talagang ire-resolve namin ang case," he added.
(We only ruled based on evidence and law. If there really is no evidence, it doesn't matter who your are -- whether you are an ally or a foe of the administration -- we will resolve the case.)