“Kapag nakawala yan si Lim at Espinosa, siya (DOJ chief Aguirre) ang ipapalit ko...”
-- President Duterte, March 13, 2018
CEBU businessman Peter Lim, initially reported as being “ecstatic” over the finding of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that “cleared” him and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa of charges filed against them and several others, expressed his joy too soon.
Can’t blame Peter LIm. He had been publicly shamed by President Duterte even before he could answer the charges. He must have seen, as anyone else would, the panel’s ruling as a speck of light at tunnel’s end.
Well, that light was quickly turned off with the deluge of criticism over the decision -- from the president to senators and police officials, to the segment of the public that raises its voice in social media.
Why couldn’t many people, including government leaders, accept the detailed, 41-page explanation of the DOJ panel? Apparently, the skeptics were watching how the story was unraveling.
Lumped with Kerwin
It’s Peter Lim’s misfortune to be charged along with Kerwin Espinosa, son of Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. who was killed by police inside the Baybay jail. The same Kerwin who confessed in open Senate hearing that he was a drug lord.
The Senate found probable cause of Kerwin’s crime and the DOJ panel did not. That was absurd to many people who didn’t know the panel was limited to the evidence submitted by CIDG, the police investigative unit. Did CIDG think Kerwin’s confession at the Senate hearing was not relevant or admissible?
Adding to the woes of Peter Lim were:
 A growing suspicion of the public that the drug war targets only the poor and spares the rich, the SPO1s, not the generals;
 The pervasive belief that decisions of prosecutors and judges can be swayed in whatever direction the smell of money wafts;
 Increasing impatience of the nation over the results of the drug campaign, in which some deaths were not investigated or explained, has been criticized here and abroad.
And how can anyone rooting for the suspects expect the review ordered by DOJ chief Vitaliano Aguirre III to end in anything less than a reversal of the ruling? President Duterte himself said he’d replace those in jail with Aguirre. A hyperbole but is still heard as an order for DOJ to find Peter Lim and Kerwin and the others guilty. Duterte even said he might review the case himself.
Police are pressed to provide additional evidence that would support such a reversal. Otherwise, it would look silly for one panel to reject another panel’s ruling based on the same facts and evidence.
What went wrong
Worse, the prosecutors who recommended and the chiefs who approved the resolution would be investigated by the NBI. When crap hits the fan, Aguirre doesn’t just seek cover, he directs it to blow towards his minions and the police. He suggested that CIDG submitted weak evidence, which led to the acquittal.
Aguirre said in his memo to the NBI to determine “malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance” by his personnel or by the PNP, indicating possible corruption or incompetence.
In assailing the persons who produced or contributed to the resolution clearing Peter Lim and the others, the DOJ chief in effect questioned correctness and integrity of the ruling. The assault from outside DOJ is intensified by the attack from within.