Self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa has recanted all of his drug allegations against detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
In a counter-affidavit subscribed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday, Espinosa disowned his sworn statements during the Senate joint committee hearings on the killing of his father Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., saying he was “coerced, pressured, intimidated and seriously threatened” by the police to implicate de Lima.
“Any and all of his statements given during the Senate hearings, or in the form of sworn written affidavits, against Senator Leila de Lima are not true. He has no dealings with Sen. de Lima and has not given her any money at any given time,” the document stated.
“Any statement he made against the Senator is false and was the result of pressure, coercion, intimidation and serious threats to his life and family members from the police who instructed him to implicate the Senator into the illegal drug trade,” it added.
It can be recalled in a series of Senate hearings in 2016, Espinosa testified that de Lima was part of the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as Justice Secretary under the administration of late President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.
He further accused De Lima of receiving a total of P8 million from him for her senatorial campaign through her former driver and security aide Ronnie Dayan.
But Espinosa, in his counter-affidavit, explained he had “no other option but to invent stories” for fear of his life and family stressing his father was killed on November 5, 2016 — 18 days before the legislative inquiry.
He claimed he was told to “cooperate” or else he and some family members will “suffer the same fate” like his father.
Never a gov't witness
Lawyer Raymund Palad, Espinosa's legal counsel, further explained the continuous filing of charges against his client made him think he was never a “government witness” despite being under the protection program.
“Pero since nailagay siya sa witness protection program (WPP), wala namang kasong inurong eh. Lahat tuloy-tuloy pagsampa ng kaso sa kanya so narealize niya na hindi naman talaga siya witness ng government. Hindi nga niya alam kung kanino siya gagamitin na kaso,” Palad said in Jamie Santos’ report on “24 Oras”.
(After he was put under the witness protection program, no cases against him were withdrawn. The charges against him were continuously filed. Maybe he realized he was not a witness of the government. He doesn’t know who he is witnessing for.)
“Although may mga statement siya against Sen. De lima hindi naman sya presented as a witness sa kahit anong kaso. Nananatili siya sa WPP pero hindi naman siya ginagamit ng government as a witness kung kanino man,” he added.
(Although he made statements against Sen. Leila de Lima, he was never presented as a witness to any case… he was under WPP but he was never used as a government witness.)
De Lima, the legislator who led the Senate inquiry on the alleged extrajudicial killings on the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, has been detained since 2017.
Of the three cases filed against De Lima, one has already been dismissed by the Muntinlupa court.
Several groups including the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights have called for her release, stressing her detainment was “politically motivated”.
Lawyer Filibon “Boni” Tacardon, de Lima’s legal counsel, welcomed Espinosa’s move saying it only proves the “length the current administration has gone to fabricate testimonies and evidence” against the legislator.
“We hope that other witnesses will also come out and confess how they were intimidated, coerced, and bribed into making false testimonies against the good Senator and if possible, name those who actively participated in coercing them to come up with such ridiculous narratives against the good Senator,” he said.
Free De Lima
Following Espinosa's retraction, vice presidential candidate Walden Bello and senatorial bet Neri Colmenares said De Lima should be released from detention.
"The trumped up charges against Sen. Leila de Lima have now crumbled. She should be freed now," Colmenares said in a tweet.
In a statement, Bello made the same call, adding he and presidential candidate Leody de Guzman will push for De Lima's freedom if elected.
“One of the key elements of Ka Leody and my campaign has been the unconditional release of this long-suffering victim of a frame-up based on nothing else but the president's vindictiveness. Release Senator de Lima now,” Bello added.—LDF, GMA News