MANILA (UPDATED) - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday said he has ordered the scrapping of the dismissal of the charges against drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim, leaving the case “wide open” for new evidence and testimonies.
Department of Justice prosecutors had earlier dismissed the charges against Espinosa, Lim, and several others due to "weak evidence", disappointing President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
Aguirre said he has formed a new panel that will review the charges against Espinosa, and maintained the investigation will not go “back to zero.”
“I already exercised my power under the automatic review. I issued an order yesterday vacating the dismissal of the case – so much so that there is no such dismissal anymore," Aguirre said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
"I ordered that the case be ordered wide open for both parties – the complainants and the respondents to file whatever evidence they have in support of their respective position."
Several lawmakers and groups have also asked Aguirre to resign over the dismissal of charges. It also led critics to say that the government’s war on drugs was only aimed at the poor and powerless.
The uproar, Aguirre admitted, prompted him to order an investigation against the prosecutors who handled the case and a fresh probe into the cases against Espinosa, Lim and their alleged cohorts.
Aguirre had earlier blamed on the Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for not using Espinosa’s Senate testimony where he admitted his involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Aguirre explained that because of his latest order, the motion for reconsideration filed by the PNP-CIDG over the dismissal of charges is now considered moot.
“The prosecution still has the chance to strengthen its evidence by securing a copy of the transcripts, stenographic notes [from the Senate] and submitting it to the panel,” Aguirre said.
“I have created a new panel for the purpose of reviewing that resolution and… for giving the parties a chance to submit additional evidence in support of their respective positions.”