MANILA - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has taken over the controversial drug case against suspected big time drug lords Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, and several other respondents pending before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Lawyers of complainant Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP CIDG) yielded as lead counsels in the case to the OSG, led by Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda.
The drug trading and drug distribution complaint over the ’shabu’ operations of the so-called ‘Espinosa group’ in Regions 7 and 8 was earlier dismissed by a panel of prosecutors for insufficient evidence.
Former Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the creation of a new panel to continue the preliminary investigation into the complaint and vacate the first resolution junking the charges. This was one of Aguirre’s final acts before resigning on April 4 following widespread criticisms. No less than President Duterte publicly criticized the first ruling.
In Thursday’s hearing, the OSG asked to be given up to April 30 to submit additional documentary evidence and present new witnesses to bolster its case. The motion was granted by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, Assistant State Prosecutor Anna Noreen Devanadera, and Prosecution Attorney Herbert Calvin Abugan.
When the first panel, composed of Assistant State Prosecutor and now Lucena City, Quezon Regional Trial Court Judge Aristotle Reyes and Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John Humarang, heard the case, respondent Marcelo Adorco was the lone witness presented by the PNP-CIDG against his co-respondents.
The OSG was given up to April 17 to respond to two motions filed by Lim’s camp:
1. a motion asking for a separate preliminary investigation for Lim;
2. a motion for reconsideration on the order to vacate the first resolution junking the case and creating a new panel to continue the preliminary probe.
Respondents have up to April 22 to reply to the OSG’s comment/submission.
The case involves the alleged distribution of at least 90 kilos of ’shabu' in regions 7 and 8 by the ‘Espinosa group' in 2013 and 2015. The complaint also alleged that 4 similar drug transactions and deliveries, with an unspecified volume of 'shabu,' with Lim as supplier, took place in 2014.
Aside from Espinosa and Lim, and Adorco, the other respondents are convicted druglord Peter Co, Max Miro, Lovely Impal alias ‘Lovely,’ 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.
Espinosa and Adorco attended Thursday’s hearing.