Duterte promotes DOJ prosecutor who cleared suspects in big drug cases
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Aristotle Reyes, one of the two Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors who dismissed the drug charges against Peter Lim, Kerwin Espinosa, and their accomplices, is now a regional trial court (RTC) judge.
Reyes, who earlier also cleared customs officials of liabilities in the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China, was appointed to the RTC by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.
Like the clearing of the alleged drug lords, however, the promotion of Reyes was belatedly publicized and implemented.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday, March 15, said it was "far-fetched" that there was any link between Reyes' promotion and the dismissal of charges against the drug suspects.
"I don't think so, and it's far-fetched," Roque said in a briefing. "If at all, if the President knew that he (Reyes) cleared these individuals, he probably would not have been appointed, so I think the question has the wrong premise."
Public unaware of drug probe and promotion: In summary, Duterte named Reyes RTC judge a month after he started handling the probe into drug trade and conspiracy charges against Espinosa, Lim, and accomplices. However, he was administered his oath only more than a month after he had cleared the suspects.
- August 14, 2017 - The preliminary investigation into Lim and Espinosa's case begins.
- September 21, 2017 - Duterte names Reyes Lucena City RTC judge.
- November 22, 2017 - Reyes, along with prosecutors Roddan Parrocha* and Joan Guevarra Garcia*, drop the charges against former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other customs officials in relation to the P6.4-billion shabu shipment case.
- December 20, 2017 - Reyes and fellow DOJ assistant prosecutor Michael Humarang dismiss the drug and conspiracy charges against Espinosa and Lim.
- January 17, 2018 - Malacañang shares with the media the appointment paper of Reyes to the RTC.
- February 2, 2018 - Reyes is administered his oath as RTC judge.
- March 12, 2018 - Justice beat reporters get hold of the December resolution clearing the alleged drug lords.
Given the gap between Reyes' September appointment and his February oath taking, it was unclear if he had been aware of his impending promotion when he decided the drug case.
Reyes under probe: The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) on the customs case, but Reyes and Humarang junked it on January 24 – a little over a week before Reyes took his oath as a judge.
The PNP had also filed an MR before Reyes and Humarang on the Espinosa and Lim case, but this time the prosecutors had been taken out of the case. DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has formed a new panel to decide the PNP's appeal.
The justice secretary has also formed another panel to investigate Reyes and Humarang to see whether they committed wrongdoing in signing the dismissal of charges against Lim and Espinosa.
Aguirre's move came after an outburst by President Duterte. – Rappler.com
*Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story, state prosecutor Michael Humarang was identified as being among the prosecutors who recommended dropping charges against former customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. He was not. This has been corrected to indicate DOJ prosecutors Roddan Parrocha and Joan Guevarra Garcia, along with Aristotle Reyes.