Drug shipment middleman as state witness? Aguirre, Trillanes butt heads
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Friday, August 18, that it is premature at this stage to speculate on whether or not businessman Kenneth Dong – alleged middleman in the P6.4 smuggled drug shipment – would turn state witness.
It was Aguirre who first said there was a possibility for Dong to be state witness.
"While it is true that I said that there is a possibility for Mr Dong to be a state witness, I also said that it will all depend on the determination of Mr Dong not appearing to be the most guilty. Such a fact has yet to be established," Aguirre said on Friday.
Aguirre made the statement in response to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who said that the justice secretary "is setting the stage to absolve Paolo Duterte's good friend/partner, Kenneth Dong in this P6-billion shabu controversy."
“Senator Trillanes is already writing the ending of a story that has yet to start. The statement of Senator Trillanes at this point is too premature that it is laughable," Aguirre said.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has already filed a drug importation complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Dong, Customs broker Mark Taguba and other personalities involved in the drug shipment issue. (READ: TIMELINE: How P6.4-B worth of shabu was smuggled into PH from China)
It is now the DOJ that will issue a resolution on whether it will pursue charges against Dong, or clear him to use him as witness. The latter happened to high-profile drug convicts, who were cleared in the drug trade charges filed against Senator Leila de Lima.
Dong is currently detained at the NBI headquarters in Manila for rape charges. The NBI, which arrested Dong just after appearing at a Senate inquiry on Tuesday, said a background check conducted on the businessman revealed he had a standing warrant of arrest for rape.
The warrant was issued on June 30, 2017 for a rape case pending before the Parañaque Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 195. Under Section 4, Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, if the officer fails to arrest the accusd within 10 days of the issuance of the warrant, a report shall be made to the court stating the reasons why.
Dong's lawyer Karla Frias earlier said they filed pleadings before the court, one of which was a motion to recall warrant. Rape is a non-bailable offense.
Rappler tried to check the case records at Branch 195 but was told it is Judge Aida Estrella Macapagal's policy to allow access only to parties.
Aguirre earlier directed reporters to check case records for more details on Dong's rape charges. Rappler also reached out to Dong's lawyer Karla Frias to see case records, but Frias only replied, "Tingnan natin (let's see)."
Frias has not responded to our query whether the NBI has returned the warrant of arrest to Branch 195.
According to the first page of the charge sheet read by Aguirre in a press conference on Tuesday, the alleged rape happened on April 9, 2016. The complainant is in her 30s, Aguirre said.
Aguirre added that if the Senate wants Dong to continue testifying in public on the drug shipment issue, they can make a request to the court to allow the businessman to attend the Senate hearing. – Rappler.com