THE July 2006 House inquiry into Cebuanos linked to illegal drugs trade did not clear Peter Lim. It found "probable cause" for prosecution and recommended that Department of Justice (DOJ) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) "fortify" the evidence against Peter Lim and his brother.
This was made clear by former congressman Antonio Cuenco who, as chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, presided over the hearing held in Cebu City. Peter Lim and his brother Wellington were among the "resource persons" who testified.
When asked by Sun.Star Saturday, Cuenco also said he will inquire from Solicitor General Jose Calida the identity of "Peter Lim" who in a chart the state's chief lawyer presented Thursday to Malacañang reporters was depicted as member of the Asia drug triad. President Duterte in a video released by PTV4 also named Peter Lim as one of three big-time Filipino drug lords who engaged in illegal drugs trade with mainland China.
"This may not be the same Peter Lim we investigated in 2006," Cuenco said.
The former Cebu City south congressman said he cannot say if it is the same Peter Lim whom his committee recommended for further investigation. "The photo in the chart in small and unrecognizable."
Businessman Peter Lim, after learning that Presidente Duterte named a certain “Peter Lim” as one of the drug lords operating under the protection of a police official, expressed confidence he wasn’t the one being referred to.
His lawyer said his client runs legitimate businesses.
Cuenco said, Calida can give the specifics. What prompted the House inquiry was a dossier given him by the police, whom he did not identify. And it was "validated" as many of those identified in the list were arrested and prosecuted, Cuenco said.
He mentioned the name of another prominent Cebuano businessman but it was not the late Richard L. King whom Duterte in an ABS-CBN video clip indirectly, through a "son or brother," linked to illegal drugs. King's lawyer Diolito Alvarez questioned the intelligence report, saying King "was never into drugs."
Aid of legislation
In defending the performance of his committee, Cuenco said its job was not to prosecute but to gather information that aids legislation. It did its part by trying to get more information. He and then colleague Nerissa Soon-Ruiz secured two would-be witnesses, one from Mindanao and another a Lim housemaid, but they "flipped." The two other main witnesses were later killed; no one was charged for their death. But it's wrong, Cuenco said, to say the House committee cleared Peter Lim. DOJ and NBI were the investigative agencies that would decide on the filing of the case in court; the decision was theirs, not the House committee's call.
Cuenco also confirmed that Peter Lim doesn't own the KTV bar Jaguar in Cebu City. Two other Sun.Star sources said the bar competes with Lim's night entertainment spots. Also, Lim's alleged ownership of the bar named Jaguar doesn't necessarily prove that he is the same Jaguar who the president and the solicitor general said is Peter Lim, the same sources noted.
Identifying the real Peter Lim would benefit not just Peter Lim whose family denied was the one linked to illegal drugs but also many other Peter Lims on whom suspicion is cast. Cuenco would make the inquiry as a citizen who happened to be in the center of controversy when it first erupted 10 years ago.
Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor