DOJ indicts Kerwin Espinosa, others over alleged illegal drug trade

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 19, 2021   •   725

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted Kerwin Espinosa and ten others for alleged illegal drug trade.

The DOJ panel of prosecutors has found probable cause to file charges against self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa and several others over the illegal drug trade in Eastern Visayas or in violation of Section 26(b), in relation to Section 5, of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The other individuals who are also indicted are:

  • Marcelo Adorco
  • Jose Antipuesto
  • Jose Jernie Estrera
  • Galo Stephen Bobares
  • Ferdinand Rondina
  • Brian Anthony Zaldivar
  • Nickjune Canin
  • Virbeca Diano
  • Alfred Cres Batistis
  • Josela Dumaguit

“Due to the complexities of transactions alleged in the instant case wherein respondent Kerwin would direct his couriers to make deliveries to pushers, users or suppliers, and likewise make payment, whether through text messages or phone calls or through a second or third middleman, it is sufficient that the communications among and between the respondents are established to prove the illegal drug trade,” according to the DOJ resolution made public on Thursday (August 19).

Meanwhile, the DOJ prosecutors dropped the complaint against 15 others, including eight police officers due to insufficient evidence. -AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Public urged not to click unverified links amid text scam surge

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice-Office of Cybercrime (DOJ-OCC) on Wednesday called on the public to be vigilant with their transactions online.

The DOJ-OCC issued the advisory amid the surge of SMS/text scams offering dubious job opportunities.

The department advised the public to be cautious before taking up an opportunity to work offered by unknown SMS senders.

It also shared some tips to discern fraudulent job ads.

 “A fraudulent job posting will either ask the applicant to pay for application or training fees or promise high wages,” it said.

“It would also require the applicant to answer extensive personal information questionnaire that would then be used by the scammers to commit identity theft,” it added.

The DOJ-OCC also urged the public to also be wary of online messages containing links to other sites as this may be a way by scammers to steal their personal data.

“Do not click unverified links and do not give away personal information easily.

The Department of Justice – Office of Cybercrime would like to remind everyone to remain cyber safe for a happy holidays,” it said.

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) earlier said its initial probe showed that a global organized syndicate could be behind the proliferation of text scams.

The NPC said it has summoned data protection officers of local telcos, banks, and e-commerce platforms to discuss the scam text surge.

The National Telecommunications Commission has ordered telcos to send a warning to their subscribers against text scams that contain dubious job offers.


PNP, NBI to jointly probe, prosecute law enforcers’ violations in drug war ops

Robie de Guzman   •   November 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have signed an agreement for cooperation in formal investigation of all police operations relating to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

The PNP said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the NBI was signed on Wednesday. PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar and NBI officer-in-charge Eric Distor signed the agreement before the Department of Justice.

The four-page MOA serves as an authority for the two agencies “to build cases against PNP personnel who would be found violating the criminal laws in the conduct of operations against illegal drug personalities across the country.”

“The PNP and the NBI shall jointly evaluate the government’s anti-illegal drug operations, and, where necessary, determine possible criminal liability on the part of the police officers involved in these operations,” the MOA read.

“As state agencies, both parties seek to ascertain the truth regarding the allegations of human rights violations and possible criminal liability in the conduct of government’s anti-illegal drug operations,” it added.

The agreement emphasizes the commitment of the PNP and the NBI in supporting each other in terms of the following:

  • Sharing all documents, records and pieces of evidence relating to the police anti-drug operations;
  • Undertaking investigation, case build-up and the possible filing of criminal complaints against any police officer who would be found violating the laws.
  • Prepare a full and detailed report of all relevant findings and recommendations for submission to each counterpart head of agency
  • Designation of points of contact and representatives for ease of coordination

Under the Agreement, the PNP is expected to designate representatives from the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) and the NBI to name representatives from its Office of the Assistant Director for Regional Operations Service, Office of the Assistant Director for Investigation Service, Office of the Assistant Director for Intelligence Service, and the Office of the Assistant Director for Forensic Service.

The designation of the representatives must be done within 15 days after the signing of the MOA, the PNP said.

Representatives from both the PNP and the NBI will form the PNP-NBI Joint Investigation Team. Their meeting is set at least once a month.

“The signing of this Agreement is proof of the PNP’s commitment to transparency and accountability and in order to finally settle the allegations of human rights abuses that have been hounding the government’s aggressive campaign against illegal drugs since July 2016,” Eleazar said in a statement.

“Through this Agreement, we will be able to ferret out the truth and correct the wrong impression that all our operations relating to illegal drugs campaign are tainted with human rights abuse. Napakalaki ng sakripisyo ng ating kapulisan sa kampanyang ito at marami din kaming kasamahan na nagbuwis ng buhay at nasugatan sa aming mga operasyon,” he added.

For his part, Distor assured impartiality in the conduct of the investigation.

“The NBI shares the goal of the PNP to put an end to the illegal drugs problem in the country. We have been coordinating and working together to address this problem through joint operations and information sharing,” he said.

“We assure impartiality in the conduct of investigation and we are confident that this would finally address the concerns on the manner by which the government’s illegal drug operations have been undertaken and to correct what needs to be corrected in the interest of truth and justice,” he added.

At least 52 cases involving 154 police officers will be prioritized by the PNP-NBI Joint Investigation Team. Those cases were already reviewed by the DOJ and were recommended for further investigation and case build-up.

The criminal cases that may be recommended by the Joint Investigation Team are separate from the administrative cases that would be pursued by the IAS, the PNP said.

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PH gov’t to probe Zamboanga fire that damaged vaccines

Robie de Guzman   •   November 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The national government is launching an investigation into the fire that destroyed a total of 148,678 COVID-19 vaccine doses stored at the Zamboanga del Sur provincial health office, authorities said Tuesday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will look into the possibility of foul play in the incident but will wait for the report from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

“We’ll wait for the initial assessment of the Bureau of Fire Protection. If there are any indications of foul play, I will request the NBI Regional Office to step in,” Guevarra said.

Nearly 150,000 doses of various COVID-19 vaccine brands were destroyed in a fire that ravaged the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur on Sunday.

Among those lost in the fire were 88,938 doses of Pfizer vaccine, 36,164 Sinovac jabs, 14,400 Moderna, and 9,176 shots of AstraZeneca. Routine immunization vaccines allocated for the province were also destroyed in the fire.

Initial report from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) stated that the fire broke out in the maintenance area at the ground floor. The fire then spread to the third and fourth floors of the three-story building.

The building, which served as the cold chain storage for COVID-19 vaccines for 26 municipalities and one component city in Zamboanga del Sur, was also occupied by various local government departments.

National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson and Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, for her part, said the DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government will conduct separate probe into the incident.

She added that the probe will also look into the possibility of the provincial government’s failure to deliver the vaccines three days after the receipt as indicated in a memorandum order.

“Well it is beyond us kasi ‘yong force of nature ‘yan, iyong fire. But we will have to look bakit napakarami noong bakuna nila bakit hindi nai-move? So, we will look into that, then see who are accountable,” Cabotaje said.

“May DILG memo na kailangan i-move ang mga bakuna three days after they have received them so we will also look at that,” she added.

Cabotaje said authorities are now trying to retrieve vaccine carriers and other equipment that were not damaged by the fire.

She also assured that ruined vaccine stocks will be replenished, especially for those who are set to receive their second dose in the province.

“Mayroon silang mga buffer stock sa region ibibigay nila ‘yan sa ating mga areas diretso na ‘yan sa mga bakuna center para mabakuna ‘yong 2nd dose,” she said.

“We are looking at paano i-stock ‘yong ating mga cold chain equipment, kung may mga additional ref na mai-reposition, additional freezers,” she added.


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