PNP to use subpoena powers if Lim, Espinosa drug charges dismissed

Rambo Talabong
PNP to use subpoena powers if Lim, Espinosa drug charges dismissed
(UPDATED) PNP CIDG chief Director Roel Obusan also says alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa has recanted his confession at a 2016 Senate hearing that he was involved in illegal drugs

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) will use its subpoena powers if the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismisses the drug charges against alleged drug lords Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa.

“If this gets dismissed, we will work hard again, we will use all available tools of investigation and one of [those] available tools is the subpoena powers. Definitely, I will use that so as to have justice,” PNP CIDG chief Director Roel Obusan said in a mix of English and Filipino in a Camp Crame news briefing on Wednesday, March 14.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier signed Republic Act 10973 which returned subpoena powers to the PNP through its chief and the CIDG’s top two officials. 

How will this power be used? Through a subpoena, the PNP can compel witnesses to submit testimonies and pieces of evidence.

If they don’t cooperate, the PNP can file a case for contempt from a regional trial court, which can end up with the uncooperative subpoena recipients serving jail time or paying a fine. (READ: No abuse of PNP subpoena powers? How the police will do it)

Subpoena to pin Espinosa, Lim? The subpoena will come especially handy as Espinosa had retracted his confession made before a Senate panel that he was involved in the country’s drug trade. 

Obusan said this is the reason why the CIDG did not submit Espinosa’s confession to the DOJ panel of prosecutors that later cleared him and others of drug charges. 

Obusan said Espinosa, in his counter-affidavit before the DOJ panel, retracted his confession that he was involved in the illegal drug trade. He made the admission when he testified at the Senate hearing into the killing of his father, the late Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, in November 2016. (READ: Kerwin Espinosa: I gave P8M to De Lima through Ronnie Dayan)

Why was the case dismissed? The DOJ panel recommended dropping the drug charges against Lim, Espinosa, and their alleged accomplices after a panel found that the CIDG’s star witness, Marcelo Adorco, was not a reliable witness. 

The panel noted that Adorco’s affidavits did not completely match, as there were differences in the years he allegedly met with Lim and Espinosa, and in the amounts of supposed shabu Lim and Espinosa had traded. 

The panel dismissed the case on December 20, 2017, but was only publicized on March 12, 2018, after reporters obtained a copy of the panel’s resolution.

What’s happening outside Camp Crame? President Rodrigo Duterte only reacted to the DOJ panel’s recommendation on Tuesday, March 13, a day after media reports sparked public outcry denouncing the move to dismiss the charges against personalities he himself had tagged as major players in the country’s illegal drug trade. (READ: Duterte to review dismissal of Lim, Espinosa drug charges

Aguirre ordered the investigation of the prosecutors on Wednesday, March 14. 

A dismissal of charges against Espinosa is seen to weaken the drug charges against Senator Leila de Lima, who has been in jail for over a year. – 

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.