Poor optics

REGARDLESS of the legal issues involved, the recent dismissal of illegal drug charges against a kumpare of President Rodrigo Duterte, a confessed drug lord and eight others speaks poorly of the administration of justice.

The reason given by the panel of prosecutors for dropping the charges filed by the Philippine National Police against Peter Lim, Kerwin Espinosa and the eight others was the lack of probable cause.

The testimony of a respondent-turned-witness was deemed lacking in credibility, given the inconsistency in his account of events and the “improbability of his allegations.”

Not too long ago, PNP chief felt the need to defend the President, saying he did not know of Lim’s supposed illegal activities. He said the President even ordered a case buildup against Lim after learning of his supposed links to the drug trade.

The PNP chief said even before Espinosa’s revelation that Lim was his source of illegal drugs, he had learned about the businessman’s alleged illicit activities from Espinosa’s brother, Kevin.

“Right away I told the President. I told him, ‘Sir, your kumpare Peter Lim is a confirmed source of illegal drugs of Kerwin.”

A spate of headlines at the time suggested that unbeknownst to the President, it was all but certain that Lim was a drug lord.

Now, a year later, those charges have been dropped.

In political term, that’s just poor optics because it means any of the following possibilities.

One, in the worst possible scenario, these events suggest the President was protecting Lim after all.

Second, the dismissal of charges suggest that the PNP is particularly inept at seeing arrests through to a conviction. All the talk about case buildup is exposed as a sham that a panel of prosecutors can rip to shreds by citing the lack of probable cause.

A corollary and equally disturbing interpretation is that the government’s war on drugs is good only for street justice dished out to petty hoods and no good when it comes to convicting powerful drug lords through the courts.

But then again, even when a drug lord is convicted, we know what happens next. The drug lords continue doing business from the state penitentiary, protected by corrupt officials in the penal and justice system.

The government likes to say it is serious about prosecuting the war on drugs. We will believe it when they land a big fish, convict him in a court of law, and put him in a crowded jail cell like any other ordinary criminal, without the “usual” amenities of air conditioning, cellphones, computers, Internet access and, oh yes, illegal drugs.

Topics: illegal drug charges , President Rodrigo Duterte , Philippine National Police , Peter Lim , Kerwin Espinosa
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