MANILA – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday apologized for issuing an order to investigate state prosecutors who dismissed the criminal complaint against businessman Peter Lim, confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and 20 others.
Aguirre clarified in his speech at Monday’s flag ceremony that his earlier order is for the protection, not only of the Office of the Secretary of Justice, but also of the prosecutors concerned.
“I apologize to the prosecutors for crossing the investigation, because extraordinary times or extraordinary incidents call for extraordinary solutions or at least measured. So, para lang maipakita natin sa lahat ng kinauukulan, sa ating mga kababayan na wala tayong tinatago dito (To show to the authorities and to our countrymen that we are not hiding anything) and that you, the prosecutors decided this case in accordance with the rules, in accordance with our procedures in the workings of the DoJ,” Aguirre said he ordered the probe.
Earlier, Aguirre directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe on possible malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance committed by prosecutors who dismissed the charges against the alleged drug kingpins.
He said he knew it was wrong of him to doubt the integrity of DOJ prosecutors whenever the resolution of high-profile cases they were handling does not lead to the indictment of respondents.
“Thank you for your understanding. I know that the prosecutors were hurt with what I have done and I apologize for that,” he added.
The Justice Secretary said he himself had to explain to President Duterte because he was “misinformed” about the incident.
Aguirre said he made it clear to Duterte that the decision of the DOJ prosecutors to dismiss the criminal complaint filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) would be automatically reviewed by his office.
“I asked the two parties to file all the other evidence they may have for them to be considered by a new panel (of DOJ prosecutors),” he said.
Aguirre said the new panel of prosecutors he formed is empowered to continue the preliminary investigation on the cases against the two alleged drug kingpins.
“Because of this continuing outrage of the ignorant, what I did is that I recalled the dismissal the drugs cases against Kerwin and company and created a new panel to continue the investigation and clarificatory of this case.”
He said he also asked the two parties to file all documents needed to bolster their evidence, so that these would be considered by the new panel, “and the motion for reconsideration filed by CIDG has been moot and academic because of this order.”
The measure, Aguirre said, would allow the parties including the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) to submit additional pieces of evidence in support of their respective positions.
The CIDG had filed a motion for reconsideration on the original December 20, 2017 resolution.
The resolution made by Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John M. Humarang and Aristotle M. Reyes recommended the dismissal of the case against Lim, Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co, Marcelo L. Adorco, Max Miro, Lovely Impal, Ruel Malindagan, Jun Pepito and several others known only by their aliases.
It was then affirmed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rex F. Gingoyon and approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan.
It cited lack of evidence and supposed inconsistencies in the testimony of Espinosa’s aide Marcelo Adorco, the lone witness cited in the CIDG complaint. The CIDG maintains that any inconsistencies on the part of Adorco were minor and did not affect the testimony on material points proving Espinosa’s liability.
The police said Espinosa conspired with several drug couriers and shabu suppliers Lim, Peter Co, and Lovely Impal, to sell and distribute drugs from Makati City to selected areas in the Central and Eastern Visayas regions.