Senate minority backs Hontiveros call for resignation of Aguirre, who cries he’s being targeted

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Aguirre Hontiveros twosome composite
Composite photograph of Senator Risa Hontiveros (right) and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. INTERAKSYON FILE

MANILA – Minority senators echoed on Tuesday Senator Risa Hontiveros’ demand for Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to resign for allegedly plotting against her, but the DOJ chief came out swinging and called unconstitutional the senators’ act of using his text messages taken without his consent.”

The minority senators expressed support to their colleague, Risa Hontiveros, who has made known her intent to move for the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

A statement of the minority senators, issued on Tuesday, reiterated their call for Vitaliano Aguirre “to resign from his post as Secretary of Justice.”

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros had accused Aguirre of plotting to file cases against her. This development, they said, “once more highlights his unethical actions as a public official.”

The minority block cited Aguirre’s “propensity for spreading fake information on those he tagged as ‘dilawan’ – for which he had to publicly apologize more than once.”

In a privilege speech Monday, 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 the picture’s details 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 why we must expedite your cases against her].”

See also:
Hontiveros calls on Aguirre to resign, accuses him of plotting cases vs her

The minority senators said: “Now, he has been caught red-handed plotting against a sitting Senator during a hearing where he is supposed to be paying his utmost attention.

“His actions signify a lack of competence for a man who holds the highest office on justice. His actions clearly violate the norms of conduct for public officials under the law.

“The Filipinos deserve better than a Cabinet official who resorts to spreading lies, sowing intrigue and to name-calling. We need a Secretary of Justice who will uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct, integrity, and justice. Secretary Aguirre clearly does not fulfill these requirements.”

In return, Aguirre protested through a statement the “intrusion” and “blatant disregard” of his right to privacy of communication, even as he was mum on the content of the text exchange itself.

“I am saddened, enraged, and more importantly, afraid of how our rights to the privacy of our communication can easily be disregarded and trampled upon,” Vitaliano wrote.

He said, “I was targeted.”

“Somebody, allegedly from the media … not only violated the express guarantees of our Constitution, but also committed a crime when he or she targeted me,” he said. “It was never inadvertent.”

Everybody can now be victimized, anyone can now be a victim.

No one can feel safe because no one is safe not even our Senators.

Who will be next?

“We should be scared,” he added. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody even to the Senators themselves. No secrets. No privacy. No sanctity. No respect. No peace of mind.”

As to the call for him to resign, Aguirre said: “Let me say for the nth time that, for as long as I have the trust and for as long as I enjoy the confidence of President Duterte, who appointed me, I will continue serving our people as the steward of your DOJ.

“You can call on me to resign, no one is stopping you, but only the President can accept my resignation.” (With reportage from JV Arcena, News5 and Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon)


 
STATEMENT OF JUSTICE SECRETARY VITALIANO N. AGUIRRE II

ON THE PRIVILEGE SPEECH OF SENATOR RISA HONTIVEROS

SEPTEMBER 11, 2017

Beyond the issue of legality is the issue of decency. Anybody who uses the fruits of an unconstitutional or an illegal act is bereft of decency.

I condemn such an act for being unethical and for being unbecoming of a public servant. That a public servant will conveniently resort to the protective mantle of a privilege speech makes it more despicable and diabolical.

Any self respecting member of the media should condemn this dastardly act of a supposed brethren in the profession. The media should not let the unscrupulous acts of a few tainted ones destroy the nobility and the purity that is still present in the majority of its ranks.

I wish to protest to the Filipino people, to whom we all are accountable, the apparent intrusion and the blatant disregard of my Constitutional rights to the privacy of communication committed during the hearing of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drug on September 5, 2017.

The right to privacy of communication is a constitutionally guaranteed right under Article III of the 1987 Constitution which states that:

Section 3

(1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.

(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.
Text messages are private communications. Any unauthorized intrusion into such exchanges is illegal and betrays the Constitution.

I condemn to the highest degree this shameless violation of a citizen’s right to the privacy of communications.

I am saddened, enraged and more importantly, afraid of how our rights to the privacy of our communication can easily be disregarded and trampled upon.

I am sad because the people who violated my right to privacy of communication and the people who subsequently trumpeted it, did so in the very hallowed halls of the Senate itself.

I have the highest regard and respect for the Senate as an institution. For that reason, when I received an invitation to attend the hearing of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs as a resource person, no matter how full my plate was at the Department of Justice, I found and made the time to attend.

As an invited resource person, I trusted fully the Senate and the Honorable Committee to guarantee the safety of my person and to ensure that all my rights will be respected and will not be violated by anyone.

I am saddened by the thought that while I gave my time, cooperation and humble efforts to the Senate during the hearing, unknown to me, I will be victimized and my rights disregarded and my privacy intruded upon. Somebody, allegedly from the media, if he or she is really from the media, not only violated the express guarantees of our Constitution, but also committed a crime when he or she targeted me.

Let us call a spade a spade. I was targeted. It was never inadvertent.

Let him or her who claim that the act was not intentional present himself or herself to prove it.

The act of unauthorized prying into an exchange of private text messages and the subsequent act of making it very public, also without authority, is a flagrant violation of Republic Act no. 4200 or the Anti-Wire Tapping Act.

The law prohibiting and penalizing wire tapping and violating the privacy of communications is very clear:

Section 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or detectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described:

It shall also be unlawful for any person, be he a participant or not in the act or acts penalized in the next preceding sentence, to knowingly possess any tape record, wire record, disc record, or any other such record, or copies thereof, of any communication or spoken word secured either before or after the effective date of this Act in the manner prohibited by this law; or to replay the same for any other person or persons; or to communicate the contents thereof, either verbally or in writing, or to furnish transcriptions thereof, whether complete or partial, to any other person: Provided, That the use of such record or any copies thereof as evidence in any civil, criminal investigation or trial of offenses mentioned in Sec. 3 hereof, shall not be covered by this prohibition.

Sec. 2. Any person who willfully or knowingly does or who shall aid, permit, or cause to be done any of the acts declared to be unlawful in the preceding Sec. or who violates the provisions of the following Sec. or of any order issued thereunder, or aids, permits, or causes such violation shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment for not less than six months or more than six years and with the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification from public office if the offender be a public official at the time of the commission of the offense, and, if the offender is an alien he shall be subject to deportation proceedings.

The person or persons responsible for violating my right to privacy of communications during that September 5, 2017 hearing also did not respect the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and the Senate as a whole.

What is disturbing and scary is what has been done before can be done again. And when they do, they will always claim inadvertence but their acts will always scream intentional.

We should be scared. If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody even to the Senators themselves.

No secrets. No privacy. No sanctity. No respect. No peace of mind.

Any text or sms exchanges in our mobile phones, which are part of our private communications, apparently are no longer private and safe!

The claim of inadvertence notwithstanding, any resource person invited by the Senate is now a potential victim.

Everybody can now be victimized, anyone can now be a victim.

No one can feel safe because no one is safe not even our Senators.

Who will be next?

I caution everyone, be on your guard at all times. If in driving, we do not drink and drive, in attending inquiries of our Congress, the lesson learned is we do not talk and text.

All that any person, with an axe to grind against anyone, has to do is to claim that a member of the media inadvertently took a picture of the text messages in the screen of a targeted person’s mobile phone and precipitate its unauthorized release to the public.

As I have said everybody can be targeted. If unpunished and not nipped at the bud, we will all be contributing to the creation of a monster which may become too big to slay later on.

To the supposed member of the media who evidently disregarded the privacy of my communications, if you do truly exist, I say shame on you!

In exchange for a news item for which you cannot and will not claim authorship and responsibility, you prostituted yourself.

Any self respecting member of the media should condemn this dastardly act of a supposed brethren in the profession. The media should not let the unscrupulous acts of a few tainted ones destroy the nobility and the purity that is still present in the majority of its ranks.

While the media should be a sentinel of the truth, it should not be a perpetrator of a wrong or a violator of a person’s rights.

Beyond the issue of legality is the issue of decency. Anybody who uses the fruits of an unconstitutional or an illegal act is bereft of decency.

I condemn such an act for being unethical and for being unbecoming of a public servant. That a public servant will conveniently resort to the protective mantle of a privilege speech makes it more despicable and diabolical.

Nobody but nobody, should be allowed to profit from committing an unconstitutional and an illegal act, not even a Senator of the Republic.

Any act or series of acts that will emanate from such an unconstitutional and an illegal act do not even deserve a scant regard and should be treated as non-existent, and if invoked or raised by anybody, should be slain at sight.

As to the call for me to resign, let me say for the nth time that for as long as I have the trust and for as long as I enjoy the confidence of President Duterte who appointed me, I will continue serving our people as the steward of your DOJ.

You can call on me to resign, no one is stopping you, but only the President can accept my resignation.

In closing, allow me to repeat this warning. If it could be done to me, it could be done to anybody.

Everyone can be targeted. No one is safe. And that should really scare all of us.