The Department of Justice has made an apparent U-turn on the controversial dismissal of criminal charges lodged against 22 suspected drug lords.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said today (Tuesday, March 20) that the ‘motion for reconsideration’ filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) was now deemed “moot” and the case was “wide open” for new evidence.
He said: “I issued an order yesterday, vacating the dismissal of the case, so much so that there’s no such dismissal anymore. And I ordered the case be ordered wide open for both parties — the complainants and the respondents — to file whatever evidence they have in support of their respective position.
“In the meantime, the motion for reconsideration filed by the CIDG is rendered moot. There’s no dismissal already. The case is now wide open for the submission of all evidence.”
Aguirre has issued the order after reports were leaked to the media last week about the charges being dropped on December 20. The resolution absolved self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, businessman Peter Lim, alleged drug queen Lovely Impal and 19 others, citing “lack of evidence”.
Aguirre admitted that “nationwide uproar” had triggered him to look again at the cases of Lim, Espinosa and the others.
He also said that he has ordered an investigation into the prosecutors who recommended the dismissal.
“Because of the nationwide uproar, actually, because of this backlash, I ordered the investigation [into the alleged drug lords], as well as the prosecutors involved here. Of course, some of them are resentful.”
After news of the dismissal of the cases against the suspected drug kingpins emerged last week, President Duterte was reported to have punched a wall in anger. It is unclear how news of the acquittal could have escaped his notice for nearly three months.
Meanwhile, police chief Ronald dela Rosa said today he was “ready to be crucified” after admitting fault for the dismissal of the drug charges.
“We won’t blame the DOJ anymore but if they are passing the blame to us, then we accept it. We can be crucified during the Holy Week because of the dismissal of the cases,” he said.
Despite admitting fault on the part of investigators, he reiterated that prosecutors could have given them a “heads-up” if they knew it was a “weak case”.
“Let us be clear, we are the ones risking our lives in this war on drugs,” he added.
“We will continue this war. Come what may. We will continue the fight. We will not back down even if we get discouraged over and over again with the dismissal of big drug cases by the prosecutors.”
He also admitted to being “outsmarted” by Espinosa, who had duped officers into believing he would testify.
“You may have fooled us once but you can never fool us all the time. Mark my word, Mr Kerwin Espinosa,” he said.
Espinosa testified at a Senate hearing in 2016, during which he confessed to being a drug law earning up to 50 million pesos per year.
However, when police investigators later asked Espinosa to sign a sworn statement, he refused. Instead of the sworn statement, the CIDG relied on clippings of news reports on Espinosa’s statements before the Senate, which were deemed to be weak evidence.
“Kerwin is good. I tell you, be careful with these drug lords,” said Dela Rosa.