MANILA, Philippines – Bishops criticized the Department of Justice (DOJ) for dismissing drug charges against big-time suspects Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa, with a prelate hitting a "very selective" due process and another saying he was "dumbfounded."
Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, – whose diocese has turned into drug war "killing fields" – compared Lim, Espinosa, and their co-accused with poor drug suspects who died without due process.
"Well, the 'drug suspects' who have been 'neutralized' in my diocese have not been as lucky. Understandably, because they are mostly poor, due process is something they cannot afford," said David, who is also vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in a text message to Rappler.
In a separate interview on Radio Veritas, David said, "'Due process' seems to work only in a very selective way."
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, former CBCP president, also slammed the DOJ decision, saying it is "insulting."
'The opposite of justice'
Villegas said: "I am dumbfounded. I cannot believe that conclusion by the Department of Justice. It is incredible. It is the unbelievable but it is hardly miraculous. It is something else. It is the opposite of justice. It is insulting."
Facing public outrage over the DOJ decision, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday, March 14, ordered a probe into his prosecutors who dismissed drug trade and conspiracy charges against Lim and Espinosa.
The DOJ earlier cited weak evidence against Lim and Espinosa. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, had tagged them as key players in the drug trade, with Espinosa even admitting his links to the drug trade during a Senate probe.
Calling Duterte's anti-drug campaign a "fake drug war," critics have contrasted Lim and Espinosa with Senator Leila de Lima, who remains in detention for what she calls fabricated drug charges.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.