DOJ panel indicts Kerwin Espinosa, 10 others of drugs charge

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2021 07:45 PM

MANILA - A Department of Justice panel of prosecutors has indicted alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading over his alleged illegal drug activities spanning various cities across the years before his arrest in 2016.

The panel, led by senior assistant state prosecutors Charlie Guhit and Susan Azarcon, found probable cause to charge Espinosa and 10 others of violating section 26 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act for attempt or conspiracy, in connection with section 5 of the same law on sale or trading of illegal drugs.

The 42-page resolution was dated July 23, but was only made public Thursday.

Indicted with Espinosa were his former aide turned government witness Marcelo Adorco, Jose Antipuesto, Jose Estrera, Galo Stephen Bobares, Ferdinand Rondina, Brian Anthony Zaldivar, Nickjune Canin, Virbeca Diano, Alfred Batistis and Josela Dumaguit.

Although there were no illegal drugs recovered, the indictment was based on the extrajudicial confessions of respondents and their communications.

All of them have issued affidavits where they admitted their participation in the illegal drugs trade, which the panel of prosecutors considered evidence against them.

Espinosa, the son of the late Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa who was killed inside a jail in Baybay, Leyte in November 2016, confessed that he began his illegal drug trade in Cebu and continued it even when he was under detention at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center in Cebu from 2005 to 2009, at the New Bilibid Prison in 2009, again at the BBRC in Cebu in 2010, and at the Ormoc City Jail from 2011 to 2013.

He said he even transacted with a police officer from 2013 to 2015. 

“[I]t is apparent that the subject affidavits have been executed voluntarily, made with the assistance of counsel and duly subscribed and sworn to before authorized officer. Verily, the confessions contained therein are admissible as evidence against them for the crime charged,” the DOJ resolution said, which did not specify which years and which transactions were particularly covered by the indictment. 

Espinosa had previously been indicted also for drug trading with alleged drug lord Peter Co in July 2018.

The panel rejected as insufficient the recantations of the extrajudicial confessions of Antipuesto, Bobares, Zaldivar and Diano, some of whom claimed they were tricked into signing the affidavit. 

Instead, the panel relied on a Supreme Court ruling in the drug case against detained Senator Leila de Lima where the high court ruled that it is not necessary to present the drug itself in illegal drug trading cases.

“[I]n indictments for Illegal Trading, it is illogical to require the elements of Illegal Sale of drugs, such as the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object and consideration. For the prosecution of Illegal Trading of drugs to prosper, proof that the accused ‘act[ed] ads a broker’ or brought together the buyer and seller of illegal drugs, ‘using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text messages, e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms’ is sufficient,” the SC said in the case of De Lima vs. Guerrero cited in the resolution.

“Clearly, due to the complexity of transactions alleged in the instant case wherein respondent Kerwin would direct his couriers to make deliveries to pushers, users or suppliers, and likewise make payment, whether through text messages or phone calls, or through a second or third middleman, it is sufficient that the communications among and between the respondents are established to prove the illegal trade,” the DOJ panel of prosecutors concluded.

De Lima is facing 2 conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading in connection with supposed illegal drug trade at the NBP despite the absence of any illegal drug recovered.

A Muntinlupa court junked a third case in February this year. She has said the cases against her are fabricated as she cries political persecution for criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte.

There are no indications from the resolution that the case against Espinosa and the 10 others is in any way connected to De Lima’s.

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