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With Due Respect

Guevarra, Albayalde can easily chase Espinosa, Lim

Newly inducted Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra and incoming “strict” Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde can easily review and rise from the resolution of Department of Justice prosecutors who recommended the dismissal of drug charges against high-profile suspects Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim and several others for insufficiency of evidence.

Automatic review. This is because the prosecutors — Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan, Rassendell Rex Gingoyon, Aristotle Reyes and Michael John Humarang — provided in their 42-page resolution that “the entire records of this case be ELEVATED to the Secretary of Justice for AUTOMATIC REVIEW” (Caps and bold types in original).

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Further, they expressly allowed the complainant PNP to refile the case if it “shall gather more concrete and competent evidence proving that respondents and other individuals are indeed involved in the illegal drug activities.”

In a statement, the members of the State Prosecutors and Prosecuting Attorneys Association (SPPAA) “fully” supported their colleagues and denounced as “reckless and malicious” the supplication of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission for their preventive suspension. The SPPAA pleaded for due process and the presumption of innocence before condemning their embattled fellows as incompetent, negligent, or corrupt.

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Contradictory affidavits. After perusing the resolution, I am convinced that the complainant PNP woefully failed to show “probable cause” against respondents Espinosa, Lim et al.

Sadly, the PNP presented only one witness, Marcelo Adorco, whose three separate affidavits were inconsistent and contradictory, as for instance, on “the dates and places of meetings with the drug supplier …  months and years covering the drug transactions… volume of the drugs involved… number [and quantities] of drug deliveries… identities of the alleged drug couriers… persons present [when] the drug deals were hatched,” etc.

Even outgoing PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa admitted to the media that the PNP “filed a weak case.” Inexplicably, the police did not present the strong evidence gathered during the Senate hearings. Under our adversarial system, prosecutors may consider only the evidence presented to them over which the adverse party had been given a chance to rebut.

But all is not lost. As I earlier said, the dismissal of the case with automatic review and without prejudice to its refiling opens a new opportunity for the PNP. Had the prosecutors filed the “weak” case, the court would have dismissed it anyway for insufficiency of evidence and, worse, double jeopardy would have attached to the accused.

As it is now, the prosecution and possible conviction of the respondents are not barred by double jeopardy. With strong additional evidence, they could still be held liable after, of course, according them due process and the presumption of innocence.

I have no doubt that with the submission of “more concrete and competent evidence” by the strict PNP Chief Albayalde, Secretary Guevarra can easily find probable cause to indict them before our courts.

I have closely followed Guevarra’s eminent career. He obtained his bachelor of arts (magna cum laude) and bachelor of laws (second honors) from the Ateneo de Manila and placed second in the 1985 bar exams. While teaching part-time at the Ateneo Law School, he was concurrently an active law partner of now Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

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Aside from his outstanding academic credentials and credible private practice, he has also steadfastly served the government under diverse political climates: As a member of the Philippine Truth Commission and deputy executive secretary for legal affairs under President Benigno Aquino III, and as a commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission and senior deputy executive secretary under President Duterte.

I have publicly said it before, and I will say it again: In my humble opinion, Secretary Guevarra has the nonpartisan gravitas, the proven competence, integrity, probity and independence to be a member of the Supreme Court.

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban @hotmail.com

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TAGS: artemio v. panganiban, Kerwin Espinosa, Menardo Guevarra, Oscar Albayalde, Peter Lim, war on drugs, With Due Respect
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