MANILA – Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called for the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, whom she accused of plotting to file cases against her.
In a privilege speech, Hontiveros presented as evidence a digital photo of Aguirre sending text messages during the Senate hearing on the killing of Kian Loyd Delos Santos last Tuesday (Sept. 5). The senator said that when the picture was enlarged, it revealed that Aguirre was texting a certain “Cong. Jing” who said that, “Naturuan na ni Hontiveros ang testigo [Hontiveros has coached the witness]. Her questions are leading questions.” Aguirre responded by saying that, “yon nga sinasabi ko dito [That’s what I’m saying here]. Very obvious. Kaya nga expedite natin ang cases niyo vs her [That’s whay we must expedite your cases against her].”
Hontiveros said that her office obtained the photo from an anonymous source who took a picture of Aguirre and inadvertently captured the text message exchange on the phone of the justice secretary. The senator said she consulted with several photography experts, who all confirmed the authenticity of the digital photo.
Hontiveros said that according to her office’s investigation, the “Cong. Jing” Aguirre was texting is former Negros Oriental Representative Jacinto “Jing” Paras. He is also a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
It was reported that VACC is the same group that filed impeachment raps against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
“Aguirre plotting against a sitting senator?”
“Is the DOJ Secretary plotting a case against a sitting Senator while a Senate proceeding is going on, right inside the Senate session hall? Is Secretary Aguirre accusing me of witness manipulation? Kung kaya ito gawin ng Justice Secretary sa isang sitting Senator, ano pa kaya sa ibang mga mamamayang Pilipino? The culture of political vindictiveness that allows Justice Secretaries to make a mockery of justice springs from the same poisonous well that encourages policemen to plant evidence, fabricate stories about their targets, and become cold-blooded killers,” Hontiveros said.
“Siya po (Aguirre) ay nakikipagkuntsabahan sa isang grupo para magsampa ng kaso – kaso na opisina din niya ang magpapasya kung may probable cause o wala. There are no words for this kind of lutong Macau,” Hontiveros added.
Hontiveros said that this supports the growing perception that cases are being filed against members of the opposition in order to silence and harass them. “Hindi ako magtataka kung sa mga susunod na araw ay may mga kaso nang isasampa laban sa akin si Justice Secretary o ang kanyang mga galamay sa VACC [I won’t be surprised if in the next few days, charges are filed against me by the Justice Secretary or his minions in VACC]. If the Justice Secretary wants to file cases against me, see you in court, Mr. Aguirre!” she said.
“Aguirre-supported VACC” tried to get Kian case witnesses
Hontiveros said that several days after Aguirre texted Paras, a standoff ensued between Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, who has given sanctuary to the minor witnesses in the Kian Delos Santos killing, and the VACC and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). The VACC tried to acquire custody of the child witnesses by pressuring the father of one of the witnesses, who had been in the custody of the CIDG. At first, the father wanted his children to leave the Catholic Church’s custody. However, after the father and children had met, and after a long-distance call to his OFW wife in Oman, the father decided that he wanted to leave police custody and join his children under the Church’s protection.
“Why does the Aguirre-supported VACC, with the aid of the CIDG, want to take custody of witnesses who don’t want to be with them in the first place? First, it was PAO, now it’s them. Are they using the custody and protection of some of the witnesses to muddle the search for truth and justice in the Kian killing?” Hontiveros asked.
“Aguirre must resign”
Hontiveros said that Aguirre’s behavior is unethical and unbecoming of a member of the civil service.
“Secretary Aguirre is in violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. He undermines our justice system, and his continued stay in office is a vulgar insult to the Filipino people and our efforts for a more just society. All these lead me to the conclusion that there is no other respectable option but to call on the Justice Secretary to resign,” Hontiveros concluded.