DOJ chief orders vacating of prosecutors’ dismissal of drug raps vs Kerwin Espinosa

March 20, 2018 - 6:45 PM
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, in file photo. He ordered vacated the prosecutors' dismissal of drug charges against Kerwin Espinosa and several others. He also ordered the investigation of the prosecutors, sparking unrest in the prosecution service. PHIL. STAR

MANILA – Amid the heat generated by a prosecution panel’s earlier dismissal of drug-related cases against Kerwin Espinosa and several others, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has ordered the controversial decision vacated, to allow for the submission of more evidence by both sides.

“I issued an order yesterday vacating the dismissal of the case so much so that there is no dismissal anymore, and 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 the respective position,” Aguirre told reporters Tuesday.

“In the meantime, sabi ko ganyan sa aking [I said in my] department order, the motion for reconsideration filed by the CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group] is rendered moot,” he added.

He clarified, though, that his move did not mean everything is back to zero. “Hindi naman back to zero kasi yung lahat ng nandyan, nandyan pa rin. Dagdagan lang [It doesn’t mean we’re back to zero, because everything that’s been gathered for that case is still there. It just has to be augmented].”

It did not make sense, he added, to just cast aside all the evidence that had been lodged against the drug lords.

The same information and allegations will remain with the court, but the case is being reopened in order to allow the submission by both sides of more evidence.

The vacating of the dismissal order and the reopening of the case means that Espinosa’s admission before a Senate hearing that he was involved in drug operations could be used in the case if deemed useful, he explained.

Aguirre issued the order vacating the prosecution panel’s dismissal of the PNP-CIDG complaint amid rising public outrage over it. Even President Duterte did not hide his anger over the dismissal, and PNP chief General Ronaldo dela Rosa said Duterte had even punched a wall in anger on hearing about the dismissal, injuring his hand.

The prosecutors who ordered the dismissal have been placed under investigation by Aguirre.

According to Aguirre, some prosecutors resented what he did and had wondered aloud if this sets a precedent of sorts – that is, that prosecutors would come under investigation of the public does not like their action.

The DOJ chief recently ordered the formation of a new panel to review the case.