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Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II defended yesterday the inclusion of alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa in the government’s witness protection program (WPP).
Aguirre rebutted Sen. Leila de Lima’s insinuations that Espinosa is not qualified under the WPP as state witness because he is the most guilty in the proliferation of illegal drug trade in the country.
Earlier, Aguirre had announced that Espinosa, a co-respondent in the sixth criminal case filed against De Lima in the Department of Justice (DoJ), has been accepted in the WPP coverage.
“The prosecution will later on ask for the dismissal of charges against Kerwin or for the dropping of Kerwin as one of the accused. But it will still depend on the court,” Aguirre said.
Among the privileges given to witnesses under the WPP are free housing facility extended to the members of their families, financial assistance, assistance in securing livelihood, and travel and medical expenses. In case of death, WPP witnesses would be given benefits, including free college education to their children.
Aguirre said De Lima “is absolutely wrong” as he pointed out that the senator has been tagged as the “most guilty” by Espinosa and several other witnesses as beneficiary of the illegal drugs money and protector of the illegal drugs trade.
“Unless she has contracted amnesia, all NBP (National Bilibid Prisons) inmates, including Jaybee Sebastian, pointed to her as the instigator who induced and tolerated the distribution of illegal drugs nationwide, which caused the proliferation of illegal drugs – all because of her ambition to win a Senate seat,” Aguirre said.
He pointed out that under the law, Espinosa and the other inmates are classified as principal by participation (in the illegal drugs trade), while De Lima is considered a principal by inducement based on the testimonies and evidence gathered.
Citing Supreme Court decisions, Aguirre said: “The SC had ruled that the latter (principal by inducement) is the most guilty because without inducement, the crime would not have been committed.”
De Lima, an election lawyer by practice, “does not know the law,” Aguirre said.
As a private practitioner, Aguirre handled celebrated cases like the Vizconde massacre, the Oakwood mutiny, and the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, to name a few. (REY G. PANALIGAN)