LIM CLEARED OF DRUG RAPS

DOJ also drops charges vs Espinosa, oth­ers due to weak ev­i­dence

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ador Vin­cent S. Mayol and Mar­lon Ramos

Ce­buano busi­ness­man Pe­ter Lim can now heave a sigh of relief. He has evaded fac­ing crim­i­nal charges for his al­leged in­volve­ment in the il­le­gal drug trade af­ter the De­part­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) ex­on­er­ated him in a drug traf­fick­ing case filed by the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and De­tec­tion Group (CIDG) last year. The DOJ res­o­lu­tion, which was dated Dec. 20, 2017, cited weak ev­i­dence against Lim and sev­eral other high-pro­file drug per­son­al­i­ties in­clud­ing self­con­fessed drug l ord Rolando “Ker­win” Espinosa Jr., in dis­miss­ing the case. Lim’s camp wel­comed the res­o­lu­tion ap­proved by act­ing Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Jorge Cata­lan. “We wel­come the rul­ing. The DOJ has spo­ken and we hope that the is­sue will be put to rest,” said Jun Fuentes who was re­quest- ed by Lim to speak on his be­half.

In toss­ing out the com­plaint, the DOJ panel of pros­e­cu­tors said the weak ev­i­dence pre­sented by the CIDG and the “in­con­sis­ten­cies” in the tes­ti­mony of its lone wit­ness, Marcelo Adorco, prompted them to ab­solve Lim and his fel­low re­spon­dents.

Be­sides Lim and Espinosa, also cleared of vi­o­la­tion of Sec­tion 26(b) of Re­pub­lic Act No. 9165, or the Com­pre­hen­sive Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act of 2000, were con­victed drug lord Pe­ter Co, Lovely Im­pal, Max Miro, Ruel Malin­dan­gan, Jun Pepito and sev­eral oth­ers known only by their aliases.

In their res­o­lu­tion, As­sis­tant State Pros­e­cu­tors Michael John Hu­marang and Aris­to­tle Reyes also re­minded the CIDG to re­frain from fil­ing cases on the ba­sis “solely of an un­cor­rob­o­rated tes­ti­mony of an ev­i­dently self-serv­ing wit­ness.”

“For if we would base our find­ing of prob­a­ble cause on such (a) bare and in­cred­i­ble tes­ti­mony alone, we would open the flood gates to ma­li­cious and un­war­ranted pros­e­cu­tions and in so do­ing, re­nege on our

task to ob­jec­tively and in­de­pen­dently de­ter­mine the cases that need to be filed in court and the per­sons who should be in­dicted for the crim­i­nal acts,” they said.

As part of the procedure, the en­tire records of the case, shall be el­e­vated to Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II for au­to­matic re­view.

In a state­ment, Lim’s thanked the DOJ for clear­ing him.

“Mr. Pe­ter Lim thanks the DOJ for ren­der­ing a just res­o­lu­tion be­cause af­ter all, the pro­nounce­ment of Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II which found head­line in CEBU DAILY NEWS on Oct 1, 2016, is cor­rect,” said Fuentes.

Jaguar, Cen­tral Visayas’ top drug per­son­al­ity, was gunned down by po­lice in Las Piñas City on June 17, 2016, two weeks be­fore Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte as­sumed his post.

Aguirre ear­lier said there was a mis­take in the July drug ma­trix re­leased by Pres­i­dent Duterte, a “kumpadre (co-wed­ding spon­sor)” of Lim.

The Jus­tice sec­re­tary said a cousin of Jaguar, Rey­naldo “Jumbo” Diaz, who was ar­rested by the po­lice in Matnog town, Sor­so­gon, in Septem­ber 2016, con­firmed that Jef­frey Diaz was the real Jaguar. Fuentes said the case filed against Lim by the CIDG’s Ma­jor Crimes In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit was solely an­chored on the tes­ti­monies of Adorco, one of al­leged hench­man of Espinosa.

Adorco claimed that Lim supplied nar­cotics in “stag­ger­ing amounts” to Espinosa for more than two years.

On June 4, 2015, Adoro said Lim al­legedly met with him and Espinosa in Thai­land re­gard­ing the de­liv­ery of 50 ki­los pow­dered meth at the Cash & Carry park­ing lot in Makati City three days later. But Fuentes said they sur­ren­dered Lim’s pass­port to the Na­tional Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI) that showed Lim was not in Thai­land on June 4, 2015.

“It was proven by Mr. Lim that, at that time, he was ad­mit­ted for a kid­ney prob­lem at the Cebu Doc­tors’ Hos­pi­tal,” he said.

Lim’s Manila-based lawyers Fran­cis Alex Lopez and Miguel Gabionza, who rep­re­sented him at the DOJ, were not avail­able for com­ment.

Al­though he didn’t han­dle the case, Ce­buano Lawyer Pe­dro Leslie Salva said they were happy with its out­come.

“At least, his name was cleared and (the) truth came out,” he told the CEBU DAILY NEWS over the phone.

Salva said Lim’s fam­ily was badly af­fected by the ac­cu­sa­tions hurled against the busi­ness­man. “We’re grate­ful to Pres­i­dent Duterte for giv­ing him (Lim) the chance to ex­plain and tell the truth. We strongly sup­port the gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs be­cause these pro­hib­ited sub­stances are re­ally not good for the coun­try,” he said.

Asked if he fore­saw the out­come of the case, Salva said “Yes, I did.”

“Be­cause for the many years I’ve been rep­re­sent­ing him (Lim) as one of his lawyers, I never ob­served him en­gaged in any il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing drugs,” Salva added.

Pres­i­dent Duterte iden­ti­fied one “Pe­ter Lim” as one of the coun­try’s big­gest drug lords.

But the busi­ness­man de­nied that he was the Pe­ter Lim linked by the Pres­i­dent to il­le­gal drugs.

The busi­ness­man met with the Pres­i­dent at Mala­cañang’s satel­lite of­fice in Davao City to be­lie the al­le­ga­tion raised against him.

Later, he was iden­ti­fied by Espinosa as one of his sup­pli­ers of shabu (crys­tal meth).

In July 2017, the CIDG’s Ma­jor Crimes In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit filed a case against Lim, Espinosa and six oth­ers for al­leged con­spir­acy to com­mit the “sale, trad­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tion, dis­pen­sa­tion, de­liv­ery, dis­tri­bu­tion and trans­porta­tion of dan­ger­ous drugs and/or con­trolled pre­cur­sors and es­sen­tial chem­i­cals.”

The crim­i­nal con­spir­acy, the CIDG said, was con­tin­u­ously ex­ist­ing in var­i­ous places in Makati City, as well as in Cen­tral and East­ern Visayas from Fe­bru­ary 2013 to Au­gust 2015 at the very least.

The CIDG pre­sented as its lone wit­ness, Adorco. But the DOJ pros­e­cu­tors said the wit­ness’ al­le­ga­tions were “un­wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion” and that his tes­ti­mony was “rife with in­con­sis­ten­cies and con­tra­dic­tions.”

Hu­marang and Reyes said Adorco’s claims were con­trary to the “stan­dards of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and the log­i­cal course of re­al­ity.”

“In­deed, for an ev­i­dence to be be­lieved, it must pro­ceed not only from the mouth of a cred­i­ble wit­ness, but must be cred­i­ble in it­self as to hur­dle the test of con­form­ity with the knowl­edge­able and com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence of mankind,” the DOJ pros­e­cu­tors ruled.

It was not the first time that Lim, who owns Hil­ton Heavy Equip­ment in Man­daue City, Cebu, was linked to il­le­gal drugs.

He and his brother Welling­ton were sub­jected to a con­gres­sional in­quiry on il­le­gal drugs in 2001.

Two of their for­mer em­ploy­ees — Bernard Liu and Ana­nias Dy — de­tailed the busi­ness­man’s in­volve­ment in il­le­gal drugs dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The con­gres­sional panel that in­ves­ti­gated the Lim brothers found prob­a­ble cause against Lim and asked the NBI to “for­tify” the ev­i­dence against the si­b­lings. The case, how­ever, did not move for­ward. In July 2006, Dy was shot dead by two uniden­ti­fied men at the cor­ner of Sal­vador and Katipunan Streets in Barangay La­ban­gon, Cebu City.

Liu, on the other hand, was al­ready de­com­pos­ing when found in his house in Tal­isay City in Septem­ber 2011. A rope was tied around his neck and crude oil poured over his body.

PE­TER LIM

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