MANILA. Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros hit back at Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who cried foul over the release of his text on “expediting” cases against the opposition lawmaker.
Hontiveros said instead of trying to skirt the issue with his long statements, Aguirre should answer if the text conversation is indeed real or not.
“Secretary Aguirre is shooting blanks. Pilit nagpapalusot. Sa hinaba-haba ng kanyang paliwanag, hindi niya sinasagot ang tanong, totoo ba o hindi ang text conversation kung saan nabisto siya na nakikipagkuntsabahan sa isang grupo para lutuin ang mga kasong isasampa laban sa oposisyon? That is the real issue here,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Tuesday, September 12.
(Secretary Aguirre is shooting blanks. He’s trying to skirt the issue. He issued a lengthy explanation but he did not answer the question: Is the text conversation, where he was caught conniving with a group to manufacture cases against the opposition, real or not?)
The senator made the remark hours after Aguirre issued a lengthy statement. The DOJ chief neither confirmed nor denied the text and just complained about Hontiveros’ “unethical” behavior for violating his privacy.
“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,” Aguirre said.
But Hontiveros said nothing is more “indecent and unethical” than plotting against a senator during a Senate hearing.
“May mas indecent at unethical pa ba sa ginawa ni Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre? He was caught red-handed plotting against a sitting Senator during a Senate hearing in the Senate. Mukhang kailangan magbuklat ni Secretary Aguirre ng dictionary at i-review kung ano ang kahulugan ng decency,” the senator said.
(Is there anything more indecent and unethical than what Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre did? He was caught red-handed plotting against a sitting Senator during a Senate hearing in the Senate. He needs to open the dictionary and review the meaning of decency.)
On Monday, Hontiveros showed a photo of Aguirre, taken during a September 5 Senate hearing on the teenager’s death, “conniving” with a member of the pro-administration Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption. The National Prosecutor Service under the DOJ has the power to decide on the probable causes of these cases.
In the picture above, Aguirre is seen texting someone named “Cong Jing,” who turned out to be former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto “Jing” Paras of a VACC.
Paras’ message, as can be seen in the photo, read: “Naturuan na ni Hontiveros ‘yung testigo (Hontiveros already coached the witnesses). Her questions are leading questions.”
Aguirre was seen typing on his phone: “‘Yon nga sinasabi ko kanina dito. Very obvious. Kaya expedite natin ang cases ninyo vs her (That’s what I’m saying. Very obvious. So let’s expedite your cases against her).”
Violation of privacy?
Aguirre claimed Hontiveros violated the Anti-Wiretapping Law in exposing his private message, thereby making the text inadmissible as evidence.
But for the senator, there was no illegal activity as there was no intention to intercept the DOJ secretary. Hontiveros reiterated that a photojournalist “inadvertently” took the photo during a Senate public hearing. She said Aguirre should prove his claim that it was intentionally done.
“There is no violation of privacy. There was no intent to tap or intercept his messages. The law is clear. What is prohibited is willfully and knowingly committing any acts constituting wiretapping,” Hontiveros said.
“What happened can be likened to overhearing a conversation by a careless person talking loudly in public. In this case, it was a text conversation, which was inadvertently caught by someone’s camera lens. Secretary Aguirre has the burden of proving that it was willfully and knowingly done,” she added.
She also slammed administration supporters who claimed that the conversation is fake.
“Furthermore, I find it funny that some of the defenders of the Justice Secretary say that the text conversation is fake. If that is the case, how can I or the person who accidentally took the picture be liable for “wiretapping” a fake text conversation?” she said.
The Senate minority bloc has renewed its call for the resignation of Aguirre, who they earlier dubbed the “fake news king”.
“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,” opposition senators said. – Rappler.com
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