Philippine judiciary

Leyte court clears Kerwin Espinosa of drug charge

Jairo Bolledo

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Leyte court clears Kerwin Espinosa of drug charge

DRUG CHARGES. File photo of Kerwin Espinosa.

Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

So far, Espinosa’s pending cases are two money laundering cases pending before Pasay courts and the two cases revived by the Court of Appeals

MANILA, Philippines – A Leyte court has junked a drug case against alleged drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa.

Leyte court clears Kerwin Espinosa of drug charge

In a copy of resolution obtained by Rappler, Baybay City, Leyte Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 Presiding Judge Carlos Arguelles granted Espinosa’s demurrer to evidence on June 5. The granting of demurrer to evidence has the same effect as acquittal, which means Espinosa’s drug case had been junked by the Leyte court.

In granting Espinosa’s motion, the court noted the insufficiency of evidence of the prosecution against Espinosa and some of his fellow accused. Aside from granting Espinosa’s demurrer, the court also ordered the release of his bail bond amounting to P600,000, which he paid in December 2023 for temporary freedom.

Espinosa has been free from detention since 2023 after posting the said bail. Aside from the P600,000, which was ordered returned by the court, Espinosa also paid around P12 million for his money laundering cases.

Even before his release, Espinosa was able to secure a string of legal victories.

In 2020, the alleged drug lord was cleared by then-Manila RTC Branch 26 Presiding Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. of his two drug charges. A year later, Makati RTC Branch 64 also dismissed illegal drug trafficking charges against Espinosa due to lack of evidence.

Espinosa, in 2023, scored three court victories. He was acquitted in June 2023 in a drug trade charge after Makati RTC Branch 65 granted his demurrer to evidence. Manila RTC Branch 16 also cleared Espinosa in his illegal possession of firearms and explosives charge in September 2023. Espinosa’s third legal victory came on December 13, 2023, when Manila RTC Branch 51 granted his demurrer to evidence in another drug case.

However, in March 2024, the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered the revival of two cases against Espinosa: illegal possession of dangerous drugs and illegal possession of firearms. The appellate court’s ruling remanded the two cases back to court, which means the cases were reopened and would undergo trial anew.

So far, Espinosa’s pending cases are two for money laundering before Pasay courts, and the two cases revived by the CA. A source told Rappler that Espinosa’s counsel has filed a motion for reconsideration to ask the CA reconsider its decision to revive cases against Espinosa.

What happened before

Espinosa was accused of being the top drug personality in Eastern Visayas.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte accused Espinosa and his father of being involved in drugs after a police operation that seized P11-million worth of shabu in a tennis court near Espinosa’s home in Albuera, Leyte. Espinosa’s father, late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, was killed in 2016, months after he first surrendered to then-PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa.

The younger Espinosa was also accused of giving former senator Leila de Lima payout drug money through her erstwhile bodyguard, Ronnie Dayan. However, in 2022, Espinosa retracted all his accusations against De Lima and said he was “coerced, pressured, intimidated and seriously threatened” to make his previous statement.

De Lima has been cleared of two of her three drug charges and has been out of jail since November 2023, after court allowed her to post bail. The resolution on the former senator’s last case is expected to be released this year. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.