By Jeffrey Damicog
After previously dismissing the complaint of the Philippine National Police (PNP) against self-confessed drug dealer Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa and convicted drug trafficker Peter Co and their alleged associates, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made a complete turnaround and now finds probable cause to file charges in court.
It will be recalled that President Duterte had been angered after the DOJ’s preliminary investigation panel junked the PNP complaint, citing weak evidence in charging Espinosa, Co and their two co-respondents in the drug trade.
On Thursday, the DOJ announced that the second panel of prosecutors handling the case issued a resolution recommending that the respondents be charged with conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade in violation of Section 26(b) in relation to Section 5, Article II of Republic Act 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
Apart from Espinosa and Co, those ordered indicted include Espino’s detained alleged associate Marcelo Adorco; arrested drug trader Lovely Impal; and Ruel Malindagan.
The resolution was made after the preliminary investigation was redone over the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s Major Crimes Investigation Unit (PNP-CIDG-MCIU) against the respondents which included Cebu-based businessman and suspected drug lord Peter Lim.
The second panel is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera who sits as its chairperson; Assistant State Prosecutor Anna Noreen Devanadera; and Prosecution Attorney Herbert Calvin Abugan.
The second panel was picked to conduct a new preliminary investigation after the first panel —composed of Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John Humarang and former Assistant State Prosecutor and now Judge Aristotle Reyes — dismissed the complaint due to the weak evidence since the PNP relied only to the inconsistent statements of Adorco.
Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon explained the second panel found probable cause after the PNP was able to present evidence which were never presented before the first panel including the investigation conducted by the Senate Committee on Justice and Public Order, before which Espinosa had testified and revealed his direct connection to the drug trade.