CEBU-based businessman Peter Lim skipped anew on Thursday, August 24, the preliminary investigation called by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the drug-related cases filed against him and alleged Visayas drug lord Rolan "Kerwin" Espinosa.
Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes said they will not accept Lim's counter-affidavit if he will not personally appear before the panel of prosecutors to personally subscribe to his affidavit. Lim snubbed the first hearing last August 14.
Lim's lawyer, Magilyn Loja, earlier manifested that her client will submit his counter-affidavit subscribed before Manila City Prosecutor Antonio Valencia Jr. dated August 22.
Attached to the affidavit, Loja said, was Lim's narration of his concern about the danger in his life and safety because of certain events that are narrated in his affidavit.
Citing the DOJ's guidelines, prosecutors refused to grant Lim's request and insisted that they will not accept his affidavit unless he appears on Thursday and personally reaffirm his answer to the criminal complaint filed against him and other respondents by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in Central Visayas.
Reyes said that if Lim will not appear on Thursday, his right to submit counter-affidavit will be considered waived.
In an interview after the proceedings, Loja said that their manifestation is guided by the Rules of Court specifically Section 3 (c) in relation to Section 3 (a) Rule 112 which said that a counter-affidavit must be sworn to before any prosecutor.
She cited the Supreme Court's previous ruling, saying there is grave abuse of discretion on the part of a prosecutor if he will refuse to accept the counter-affidavit sworn to before a prosecutor.
"In the rules, it states a prosecutor. It does not make any distinction whether it's a state, a city or an investigating [prosecutor]," Loja said.
"Prosecutors all have the same authority and before them, what their obligation under the rule is that they have to examine the affiant, they have to be convinced that the affiant understood the allegations in the affidavit and that he executed the affidavit voluntarily," she added.
Asked why Lim reaffirmed his affidavit before a prosecutor in Manila and not before the DOJ prosecutors considering its proximity to the DOJ building in Padre Faura, Loja said it was safer for his client.
"Did you see the number of people around? And we could not be sure about his safety. It was a personal decision," she said.
"It would not be under the eyes of all the camera. It would be under any security for the other respondents. Present right now is a number of people...," she added.
Loja said she is not sure if her client will appear Thursday to personally subscribe to his affidavit before the panel.
Loja said Lim's affidavit contains his denial that he met Espinosa in Thailand and that he transacted with other drug lords in Visayas.
Lim, Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co and several others are facing a criminal complaint for violation of Section 26 (b) of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act for conspiring to trade drugs in the Visayas.
Lim's co-respondents Espinosa and Co have appeared and submitted their respective counter-affidavits.
Espinosa's alleged confidant, Marcelo Adorco, a respondent in the complaint, also reaffirmed his affidavit that has been used as basis of the PNP-CIDG to file a complaint against the respondents.
Another hearing has been set for September 6, at 10 a.m., for the submission of counter-affidavit of respondent Lovely Impal.
The DOJ prosecutors said they have received information that Impal could not attend Thursday's probe as she has to attend the trial of the case filed against her at Lanao del Norte Regional Trial Court.
Impal is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail and Management in Ilagan. (SunStar Philippines)