Kerwin Espinosa pleads not guilty to drug charges

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 20) — Alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa pleaded not guilty to his drug charges.

Espinosa, clad in a bulletproof vest and guarded by agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), maintained innocence during his arraignment at the Manila Regional Trial Court's Branch 26 on Friday.

He is facing charges for the trading and distribution of dangerous drugs, which is punishable by life imprisonment under Section 5 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

Espinosa, the son of slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, accused the police of planting the 200 grams shabu seized from their home on July 28, 2016.

He said he was not even home when the raid was conducted.

"Kasi wala talaga akong kasalanan kundi kagagawan ng mga pulis na lagi na lang ginagawang nagpaplanted. Gumagawa ng mga scenario para lang sa accomplishment nila," Espinosa said.

[Translation: "Because I really am not guilty, it was the police who planted the drugs. They are making up scenarios for their accomplishments."]

Espinosa was arrested by authorities in Abu Dhabi in October 2016 after the international police organization Interpol sent a "red notice" to their counterparts, which seeks the location and arrest of wanted persons, police said. The Philippine National Police later sent officers to bring Espinosa home, and he was eventually placed under NBI custody.

The Baybay Regional Trial Court in Leyte earlier dismissed the case against the older Espinosa after he was shot and killed in a November 5, 2016 drug raid inside his jail cell.

This is in line with Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code which states, "Criminal liability is totally extinguished by the death of the convict."

Both father and son were tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte in his list of alleged illegal drug coddlers and traffickers.

It was the Baybay RTC that ordered the Espinosas' arrest over drug charges, but the Supreme Court granted the prosecution and defense's request to have the younger Espinosa's case tried at the Manila RTC – for security reasons.

Manila court Judge Silvino Pampilo eyes to come up with a decision by May or June next year.

The pre-trial hearing was set for November 10.

Espinosa earlier admitted in a Senate probe he gave drug payoffs to former generals, drug enforcement and police officials in exchange for the protection of his drug trade in Eastern Visayas.

Lawmakers have called on the government to ensure Espinosa's safety, saying he must not share his father's fate so he can pin down all public officials who have benefited from the illegal drug trade.

Read: Lacson: Kerwin Espinosa must live to tell his story

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.