Nalzaro: Blame game

A BLAME game ensued between law enforcers and the prosecution following the dismissal of the drug charges against Cebuano businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa by the panel of prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The dismissal raised the eyebrows of some citizens who are now questioning the seriousness of the administration’s war on drugs.

The dismissal is still subject for review by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and can also be appealed by the complainant, the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), before the Court of Appeals by way of a petition for review. Aguirre is now a subject of criticisms. Some sectors are calling for his resignation.

Perhaps feeling the pressure, Aguirre created an investigating panel from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the dismissal of the case. The pressure might also prompt him to reverse the panel’s findings. Some sectors suspect money changed hands in this case.

But all these allegations and innuendos are unfair to the members of the panel of prosecutors who stood pat on their decision and blamed the CIDG for coming up with “half-baked” investigation. The testimony of Marcelo Adorco, Espinosa’s trusted man, was inconsistent and was not corroborated by independent credible witnesses.

Never mind Lim because he denied the charges labeled against him and there was no “corpus delicti.” It was all allegations and public perception that Lim is a drug lord. But in the case of Kerwin, who admitted before a Senate inquiry that he is a drug lord, his confession was not included in the charge sheet.

The prosecutors said they could not insist on doing so because Kerwin’s testimony was never presented before them. It is not their duty to gather evidence or coach the witness on what to say. I think this a valid argument.

As I said, the investigation stage is different from the stage of the filing of the case before the prosecutor’s office and trying the case in court. How can the prosecutors find prima facie evidence or probable cause if the investigation was not done properly? And how can the prosecutors effectively prosecute the case in court during trial if there is no concrete evidence against the defendant?

And do you think just any judge would convict an accused without solid evidence? Remember that in a criminal case, the accused should be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If there is doubt, the decision would favor the accused.

As a legal rule,the defendant’s out-of-court confession alone is insufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Also, an accused cannot be convicted solely by the testimony of an accomplice. There should be corroboration from other witnesses.

But I suspect that in the case of Kerwin, there is that so-called “exchange deal.” The government spared him from any charges because he is being used as a “witness” against Sen. Leila de Lima. In the event that he backs out from testifying against de Lima, the administration can’t pin her down.

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