Ready to offer immunity to Kerwin Espinosa -DOJ

Ready to offer immunity to Kerwin Espinosa -DOJ

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday welcomed the arrest of Kerwin Espinosa as the suspected Eastern Visayas drug lord could be used to testify against persons involved in the illegal drug trade.

Aguirre said he was open to the possibility of giving legal immunity to Espinosa under the DOJ's Witness Protection Program depending on the quality of his testimony.

"Mabuti naman at least we could have an additional witness," Aguirre told reporters, hours after the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced Espinosa's arrest in Abu Dhabi after months of going into hiding.

"Kung papasa sa assessment sa WPP, then we are going to offer immunity to Kerwin," he said.

However, Aguirre could not say if the immunity would cover Espinosa's possible testimony on his involvement in illegal drugs or in the case the government is building up against Senator Leila De Lima.

De Lima is alleged to have protected drug syndicates inside the New Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary.

"Yun ang medyo complicated. Ano bang immunity ang maiibigay natin sa kanya? We will see," Aguirre said.

Espinosa was arrested for the case of illegal possession of firearms pending before Baybay, Leyte Regional Trial Court Branch 14.

His father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, pleaded not guilty on October 12 to the same offense, a week after he was nabbed in relation to the kilos of suspected shabu and high-powered weapons seized during a raid on his house in August.

Espinosa is also facing a drug complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman with De Lima and a barangay kagawad as co-respondents.

According to the complaint, Kerwin's brother, Kevin, allegedly gave to De Lima's former driver Ronnie Dayan, two bags containing P4 million each early this year for the former justice secretary's campaign.

A photo of De Lima and Kerwin together also surfaced in the media in recent months. De Lima, in response, said she does not know Kerwin and the photo was not enough evidence to pin her down.

"It's for us to show that there are more than what appears on the picture," Aguirre said.

De Lima has repeatedly denied the allegation she tolerated drug syndicates inside the New Bilibid Prison in exchange for  funds for her 2016 senatorial campaign.

She accused the government of fabricating evidence and coercing witnesses, some of them Bilibid inmates, to testify against her, especially in the recently concluded House inquiry on the issue.

Two drug trafficking complaints against De Lima and several individuals are now pending preliminary investigation before the DOJ, whose findings will be forwarded to the Ombudsman, which has jurisdiction over ranking government officials like her.

Source: GMA News

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