Espinosa not among 3 witnesses vs. de Lima in May 16 hearing

By Benjamin Pulta

April 29, 2022, 4:49 pm

<p>Sen. Leila de Lima <em>(PNP photo)</em></p>

Sen. Leila de Lima (PNP photo)

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday said the prosecution is scheduled to present its last three witnesses on May 16 on the drug charges against jailed Senator Leila de Lima.

The witnesses do not include self-confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa, who has recanted his testimonies and exonerated de Lima.

The prosecution said then-DOJ Secretary de Lima regularly received  money from drug lords inside the Bureau of Corrections facility in Muntinlupa City through intermediaries to bankroll her candidacy for senator in 2016.

In a statement, the DOJ said “the prosecution will not utilize Espinosa as a witness in this case because his then statements/affidavit which he recanted are immaterial to the prosecution’s case”.

“He executed said affidavit only on 28 April, more than five years after his testimony was given before the Senate in 2016 and other subsequent affidavits executed in 2017. The glaring delay on the part of respondent Espinosa in recanting his previous statements poses a question on his truthfulness and motive,” the DOJ said.

Through his lawyers on Thursday, Espinosa said his statements during Senate hearings against de Lima were “not true”, he had no dealings with the senator, he had not given her money, and he was pressured with threats on his life and family members to implicate the lawmaker.

In February, the DOJ ordered Espinosa dropped from the rolls of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) after he tried to escape from his detention cell at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

He was subsequently transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

There are two pending drug-related cases against de Lima which are being tried before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branches 204 and 256.

In both cases, Espinosa was not utilized as a witness for the prosecution.

WPP director and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva conveyed the decision to exclude Espinosa in a letter dated February 7 to lawyer Eleanor Rachel Angeles of the NB Administrative Service.

The termination of the WPP coverage included Espinosa's wife and dependents.

Aside from the escape attempt, other lapses committed by Espinosa while under the NBI's protective custody were harassment of other inmates; smuggling activities; drinking liquor; extorting money from other inmates; violating curfew hours and roaming around cells of other inmates despite warnings; communicating with other inmates also incarcerated on drug cases; and possessing prohibited items such as mobile phones and bladed weapons. (PNA)