Kerwin Espinosa acquitted in drug case; Peter Lim remains at large

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 10 2023 01:11 AM

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MANILA — A Makati court has acquitted self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and a co-accused of a drug charge, even as it noted that one of the co-accused, alleged drug lord Peter Lim, remains at large.

In a resolution dated June 6, Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 65 Judge Veronica Tongio-Igot granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Espinosa and co-accused Marcelo Adorco and acquitted them due to reasonable doubt.

A demurrer to evidence is essentially a motion to dismiss due to the insufficiency of the evidence of the prosecution.

Espinosa, Adorco, Lim and co-accused Ruel Malindangan were accused of committing conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading on 2 occasions — the first one on February 16, 2013 involving 30 kilos of shabu and the second one on June 7, 2015 involving 50 kilos of shabu, both in the same mall in Makati City.

Like Lim, Malindangan has also remained at large.

Adorco was initially presented as a state witness but after being presented on partial direct examination, prosecutors moved to discharge him in July 2022, after he recanted his allegations in the other drug case he was facing with Espinosa.

That left the prosecution with just 3 witnesses who were all police investigators.

The court considered the testimonies of these witnesses “hearsay” because their “knowledge on the Illegal Trading purportedly committed by the accused was limited to the matters relayed to them by accused Adorco.”

“It is an immemorial rule that a witness can testify only as to his own personal perception or knowledge of the actual facts or events. His testimony cannot be proof as to the truth of what he learned or heard from others,” the court said.

The prosecution tried to present 4 affidavits Adorco earlier executed, arguing that these were all voluntarily executed.

But the court said these would still be considered “hearsay” because Adorco himself was not presented in court to identify and affirm his affidavits and neither was he subjected to cross-examination.

The court also noted that the supposed extrajudicial confessions of Adorco failed to comply with constitutional requirements such as the right to be informed of his rights while under custodial investigation and the right to a competent and independent counsel.

One of the lawyers assigned to Adorco, the court said, only arrived 2 hours after the police interrogation started while the other one did not provide “effective and adequate legal assistance” by failing to explain to Adorco the gravity of the offense and its consequences.

The prosecution also invoked Espinosa’s extrajudicial confession during the Senate hearings — to no avail. The court said the prosecution failed to show that the confession was made voluntarily.

Espinosa and Adorco were previously acquitted in another drug case also by a Makati court after Adorco executed a counter-affidavit in August 2020 recanting his claims against Espinosa. 


Espinosa was among the witnesses the government presented against then-Senator Leila de Lima during the Senate hearings on the alleged drug trading at the New Bilibid Prison in November and December 2016. 

He was arrested in Abu Dhabi in October 2016 and made various claims against De Lima including giving the senator money in Baguio City and giving P8 million through the senator’s then-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, but his lawyer said he was never used as a witness in the court cases against De Lima.

But in his counter-affidavit executed before the Department of Justice in April 2022, he took back all his claims saying he was "coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened by the police."

His father, then-Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr., was shot dead inside a jail cell in Albuera, Leyte on November 5, 2016, or just 18 days prior to the Senate hearing.

He was among the alleged narco-politicians tagged by then-President Rodrigo Duterte.

Despite his acquittal, Espinosa will still remain behind bars as he is still facing other drug charges in different courts. 


Meanwhile, authorities have yet to locate alleged drug lord Peter Lim, one of the co-accused in the case.

The DOJ had accused him of supplying at least 90 kilos of shabu to the so-called Espinosa drug group in Regions 7 and 8 in 2013 and 2015. Separate drug transactions also allegedly took place, with an unspecified volume of shabu, in 2014.

The Philippine National Police ordered a manhunt while Duterte himself had publicly threatened Lim due to his supposed drug activities.