New charges filed vs. self-confessed drug dealer Espinosa, Napoles


By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent

New criminal charges were filed against pork barrel scam prime suspect Janet Lim-Napoles and self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa, two high-profile detainees about to get off easy from their alleged crimes because of supposed official intercession and inefficiency.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has restored the drug charges filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) against Espinosa and three others. These cases were earlier dismissed by the DoJ under former Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II for “weak evidence.”

As for Napoles, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of another set of criminal charges for her alleged involvement in the 2004 fertilizer fund scam. Under Aguirre, Napoles was placed under the witness protection program and on the verge of being named state witness in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel fund scam although she is considered the guiltiest party in the scam.

Reversing its earlier controversial resolution dismissing the complaint of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the DoJ approved the indictment of Espinosa, convicted drug lord Peter Co, Lovely Impal and Ruel Malindangan for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, citing a conspiracy to engage in the illegal drug trade.

In a resolution approved last July 11 concerning Napoles, the Ombudsman said there is probable cause to charge her before the Sandiganbayan for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds.

Ordered charged with the same offense were four former officials of the Department of Agriculture-Region 13 (Caraga), namely Assistant Regional Director Edgardo Dahino, Chief Administrative Officer Jessica Da-an, Administrative Officer Merylinda Santos and accountant Gerry Leop. Also charged were two employees of Napoles in the non-government organization Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc.

The resolution was announced just three days before Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales retired on July 26.

The charges stemmed from DA-Caraga’s procurement of fertilizer for the Agricultural Reinforcement Project of the municipality of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte. The Ombudsman said its investigation revealed that in May 2004, the DA-Caraga Regional Field Unit entered into a memorandum of agreement with Del Carmen and the PSDFI for the procurement of fertilizer amounting to PHP 5 million.

The Ombudsman said its verification with the municipal agriculturist of Del Carmen revealed that no fertilizer was ever distributed to the municipality or to the intended farmer-beneficiaries. Instead, the Ombudsman said Napoles, in conspiracy with De Leon and Pontillas, just falsified official receipts and other supporting documents to make it appear that the entire PHP 5-million fund was used in the procurement of the fertilizer.

The fertilizer fund scam involves accusations that former Agriculture Undersec. Jocelyn Bolante diverted PHP728 million in fertilizer funds to the 2004 election campaign of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In the case of Espinosa, the DoJ investigating panel based its findings on the testimony of state witness Marcelo Adorco, who confessed participation in the illegal drug trade and tagged Espinosa, Co, Impal and Malindangan as his cohorts.

The DoJ dismissed late last year the charges of sale, administration, dispensation, trading, delivery and transport of illegal drugs against the respondents. This triggered a public outrage that also infuriated President Duterte.

Malacañang welcomed the decision to again indict the crime suspects. “The Palace is very pleased that the wheels of justice are turning to hold them accountable,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

PNP Chief Director Gen. Oscar Albayade also hailed the DoJ panel for taking another look at the evidence submitted by the CIDG against Espinosa. “I am glad the DoJ found merit in the case filed by the CIDG,” he said. Albayalde maintained the PNP has “damning” evidence against Espinosa linking him to the drug trade.