Aguirre defends DOJ budget before De Lima

Aguirre defends DOJ budget before De Lima
'I will be very civil. I will be a statesman,' says Senator Leila de Lima as she inquires about the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Justice

MANILA, Philippines – It was an encounter that was bound to happen.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Senator Leila de Lima faced each other on Friday, October 7, as Aguirre defended the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Justice before the Senate.

During the budget hearing, De Lima lamented how her former office has been used to continuously “vilify” her. She, however, maintained she would not use the pain she felt over Aguirre’s allegations against the DOJ budget.

“I will be very civil. I will be a statesman,” De Lima said.

“I’m really very happy to see everyone here, old faces and new faces. You were my former family so I assure you of my constant support for the DOJ as an institution,” she added.

Aguirre, for his part, said: ‪”We will not be using the office of the DOJ to persecute anybody. We are just applying the law.”‬

Aguirre has repeatedly lashed out at his predecessor, accusing her of  involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison. He even said the DOJ would file administrative and criminal charges against De Lima, the fiercest critic of his boss, President Rodrigo Duterte.

It was also Aguirre who, among others, facilitated the House probe against the senator and presented witnesses – mostly convicts who were granted immunity from suit for anything they may say in their testimonies – against De Lima. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)

The senator’s statement in relation to her DOJ sucessor on Friday was in stark contrast to her irate statement last week when she compared Aguirre’s toupee to the “fake” evidence that he had presented to support the administration’s claim that she benefitted from drug operations at the NBP.

Office for EJK cases

The DOJ’s proposed 2017 budget – P15.017 billion – is P2 billion higher than its current budget.

Aguirre earlier said the agency wants to create an office that would focus on cases involving extrajudicial killings to improve the country’s conviction rate on summary executions – which rose from 1% in 2001 to 11% in 2015.

“I was told that we have no permanent office for prosecution of these extralegal killings. So if we would provide an office for this particular purpose, then perhaps it will help,” Aguirre earlier told congressmen during a DOJ budget briefing in August.

De Lima has cried foul over the administration’s allegations and has repeatedly denied links to illegal drugs.

The senator and the President have long been at odds over the issue of human rights.

De Lima, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights during the Arroyo administration and Justice Secretary in the Aquino administration, launched a probe into Duterte’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad (DDS).

She drew the ire of the President anew for leading a Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings under his administration, but their enmity started years earlier when De Lima, as CHR chief, investigated the DDS. –

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