ARAYAT -- After being in police custody for more than 60 days, former three-term Mayor Luisito Espino of this town was finally freed from jail on Monday, April 24.
This was after the Pampanga Regional Trial Court, in a resolution released Monday, cleared Espino and his three companions from the cases filed against them by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDG) in Pampanga.
The former mayor, together with Cacutud village chairman Rosendo Dizon, Romy Mallari, and Rosauro Dillera were exonerated of the illegal possession of firearms, explosives, and narcotics cases filed against them by authorities.
According to CIDG-Pampanga Deputy Provincial Director Senior Superintendent Renee Johnson Melgura, the court filed the resolution after they found no probable cause to pursue the charges against the suspects.
“Based from the resolution that we received, they cited the insufficiency of evidence presented to the proper court which led to the dismissal of the case,” he said.
Melgura, however, asserted that their office presented all the firearms, explosives and illegal drugs that were seized from the suspects’ possession as evidence.
He said that part of the said evidences were a 5.56-pistol, three .45-handguns and a 9mm-pistol, three hand grenades and 19 sachets of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu,” which were confiscated during the implementation of a search warrant against Espino that led to the latter’s arrest.
Melgura said that their office is now contemplating on filing a motion for reinvestigation and reconsideration to proceed with the cases.
“But for now, Mr. Espino and his companions are free as ordered by the court,” he said.
Espino was arrested on February 15 by joint operatives of CIDG Pampanga and Philippine National Police-Special Action Force while serving search warrant operation issued on February 7 by Judge Ana Marie Joson-Viterbo of RTC Branch 24 (Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija) against him for alleged illegal possession of firearms and illegal drugs at his residence in Barangay Cacutud here.
Espino told SunStar Pampanga that he feels vindicated after the court dismissed all charges against him.
Espino added that justice has prevailed after he was “wrongly accused.”
"Masaya ako at ang aking mga kasamahan na napawalang sala kami. Malaki ang tiwala ko sa korte at sa justice system natin. Masakit lamang ang loob ko na kahit wala na tayo sa pulitika ay may mga grupo pa rin na pinupulitika tayo (I’m happy that we were cleared from the case. I have trust in our court and to our justice system. I was just offended that there are people politicizing me)," Espino said.
Espino is now reunited with his family and will take a few days’ rest.
The former mayor said that he felt a “bit slighted” by other media groups that his side was not aired after he was arrested.
Espino added that he will give an official statement next week as his lawyer is still preparing counter charges. (With reports from Chris Navarro)