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June 10, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 275 views

Alfred DalizonTHE recent court decisions on three major cases during the former Duterte administration which favored many of the accused is another ‘eye-opener’ for the Department of Interior and Local Government-Philippine National Police and the Department of Justice-National Bureau of Investigation to work harder to convict prominent personalities they have charged under the PBBM presidency.

Enough of the ‘all bark, no bite thing, the numerous press conferences and statements by officials that they have the goods on the accused and that they have nothing to go but in jail.

What our officials need to do is to ensure that the PNP and the NBI as well as our prosecutors will work as a real solid team to really bring justice for all. This they can do by seeing to it that the suspects they have charged in court will be convicted beyond reasonable doubt.

This week, three major court decisions appear to really have caused an embarrassment to officials of the former Duterte administration who have assured all and sundry that they have gathered solid evidence and vital witnesses against personalities they arrested and jailed before.

I’m referring to former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and former Police Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Dumlao. I don’t personally know de Lima and Espinosa and I would say that Dumlao is just a mere acquaintance or just a person whom I know slightly but not a close friend since I have seen him play badminton while I’m playing pick-up basketball games with PNP generals and colonels at the Camp Crame gym before.

First, de Lima who has been in detention for more than six years was acquitted on one of the two remaining illegal drug trading cases filed against her while she was still DOJ chief. The Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 204 cleared de Lima last May 12 of the one of the two drug cases filed against her. Another Muntinlupa court also cleared the former lawmaker of one of the charges hurled on her in 2021.

It seems that the retraction of a key witness against de Lima, former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos proved significant in her acquittal although she will remain in detention at the maximum-security PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame since the Muntinlupa City RTC Brnach 256 is yet to issue its resolution on her petition for bail.

Ironically, Kerwin Espinoa also claimed he was ‘coerced, pressured, intimidated and seriously threatened’ to testify against de Lima. Another thing is that the Muntinlupa court had ruled that Ragos’ retraction created ‘reasonable doubt’ about the accusations against the ex-DOJ secretary. It only meant one thing too: government prosecutors and witnesses failed to prove their accusations against the latter to sustain her conviction.

Second, Kerwin Espinosa, the son of the late Albuera, Leyte Mayor Ronaldo Espinosa Sr. was also cleared of charges of drug trading by the Makati City RTC Branch 65 for insufficiency of evidence.

It was also Espinosa’s second acquittal out of the four drug charges filed against him during the PRRD administration.

So what will happen to Kerwin now? Would the man who was arrested by PNP officials in his hiding place in Abu Dhabi in October 2016 be soon free as the two other criminal charges against him would also be resolved in his favor? Remember that the RTC judge dismissed as mere ‘hearsay’ the testimonies of three policemen who claimed to have knowledge of the illegal drug transactions of the young Espinosa.

Last but not the least is the case of dismissed Lt. Col. Dumlao, the police official who was tagged by the PNP as the alleged mastermind behind the kidnapping-murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in 2016.

Last Tuesday, the Angeles City RTC Branch 60 acquitted Dumlao on criminal charges of kidnapping with homicide, kidnapping with serious illegal detention and carnapping citing the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The court however convicted Dumlao’s co-accused, dismissed Senior Police Officer 3 Ricky Sta. Isabel and a former NBI errand boy named Jerry Omlang for the three charges and sentenced both to serve 20 to 40 years in prison without parole for the kidnapping with homicide and kidnapping with serious illegal detention and another 20-year years imprisonment for car theft.

It is also interesting to note that in all these three controversial cases, officers and men of the now defunct PNP Anti-Illegal Drug Group were involved in the investigation and subsequent filing of criminal cases against the accused. It should also be noted that both Dumlao and Sta. Isabel are members of the PNP-AIDG which is now known as the PNP Drug Enforcement Group.

Shortly after the kidnapping-slay of Jee Ick Joo right inside Camp Crame, then PNP chief General Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa was fully embarrassed by the incident that he threatened to resign his post. However PRRD rejected his resignation. In the wake of the Jee Ick Joo case, now Senator dela Rosa abolished the PNP-AIDG and created the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and later the PNP-DEG.

A lawyer, Dumlao was found guilty of administrative charges for grave misconduct for his involvement in the Jee Ick Yoo case in 2018 and was fired from the police force. The Jee Ick Joo case attracted international attention that an embarrassed President Duterte apologized to the South Korean government and its citizenry and vowed to bring to justice all persons involved in the dastardly crime.

Since 2018, the South Korean Embassy has literally turned the site where Jee Ick Yoo was strangled to death while inside a vehicle—the place is just a few meters away from the former PNP-AIDG headquarters and the PNP National Headquarters—into an unmarked memorial place where South Koreans flock every year to say prayers and remember the victim.

What is obvious here is that the accused masterminds, the brains, the supposed crime bosses are being acquitted one after the other. There are even talks of Dumlao appealing for reentry into the police organization. What has happened to our country Sirs?

Again, I am asking that question due to the fact that the present government is also investigating a number of major crimes in the country since 2022 including the gruesome killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and nine others.

Right now, reports that many of the accused in the Degamo case who are inside the NBI jail have already recanted their testimonies citing supposed torture also bring to my mind the possibility that the case would end in favor of the accused, not in favor of the victims and their families.

The case of Oriental Mindoro radio commentator Cresenciano Bunduquin who was assassinated by a motorcycle-riding man in Calapan City last May 31 is another case in point. Although the SITG Bunduquin has already filed a criminal case against the identified gunman, there have talks regarding the presence of more ‘persons of interest’ including a police major.

However, some friends have told me that what they need is to secure formal affidavits from persons who are claiming other things not included in the initial investigation. Lack of affidavits and witnesses would only result to cases being junked by the court for failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused, they told me.

The 50-year old Bunduquin was gunned down by one of two motorcycle-riding men in front of his rented store in Barangay Sta. Isabel in Calapan City last May 31. The suspects immediately fled but the motorcycle driver later identified as Narciso Guntan died after an MC crash.

The suspect yielded two caliber .45 pistols. His back-rider identified as Isabelo Bautista managed to escape and is still being hunted as of press time. Kudos to the Police Regional Office 4-B headed by Brigadier General Joel Doria and the SITG Bunduquin led by Oriental Mindoro Police Provincial Office director, Colonel Samuel Delorino for acting quickly on the matter amid PNP chief, General Benjie Acorda’s assurance to apprehend the suspects as quickly as possible while emphasizing the utmost importance placed on the safety and well-being of members of the working press.