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MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros faces a slew of complaints for exposing a photograph showing Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II telling Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Jacinto “Jing” Paras to “expedite cases” against her.
Aguirre and Paras do not confirm or deny the content of the text message, but they will both be filing cases related to wiretapping and violation of privacy and ethics.
The justice secretary said he will file 3 counts of violation of the anti-wiretapping law before the Office of the Ombudsman, an ethics complaint at the Senate, and a civil case “violating [his] right to privacy of communication” with a Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Rappler asked Aguirre whether he intends to file the civil complaint before city prosecutors or state prosecutors which are under him at the Department of Justice (DOJ), but the justice secretary did not respond.
Paras also said he will file a case for violation of the anti-wiretapping law before the Ombudsman “at the soonest.”
“The Office of the Ombudsman, not the DOJ, has the authority to entertain the complaint since Hontiveros’ salary grade is over and above 27,” Paras said.
The text exchange between Aguirre and Paras happened on September 5 during the Senate hearing on the slay case of teenager Kian delos Santos, who was killed by Caloocan policemen conducting a drug raid.
Aguirre, the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), and with support from the VACC wanted to get custody of the witnesses from Hontiveros. The witnesses have, however, chosen to be under the protection of the Catholic Church through Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.
One of the witnesses was brought to the Senate on September 5, and in his text message, Paras told Aguirre: “Naturuan na ni Hontiveros ang testigo. Her questions are leading questions (Hontiveros has coached the witness. Her questions are leading questions).”
Aguirre replied: “E ‘yon nga sinasabi ko dito. Very obvious. Kaya nga expedite natin ang cases niyo vs her (That’s what I’m saying here. Very obvious. That’s why let’s expedite your cases against her).”
Ironically, Paras said that the complaint which he will file against Hontiveros will pertain to that very issue.
Paras will file a criminal complaint for obstruction of justice and kidnapping and failure to return a minor. Paras said these, too, will be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.
In an earlier statement, Hontiveros said Aguirre should stop skirting the issue of whether or not he really sent the text message. The senator, along with her colleagues in the minority bloc, renewed their calls for Aguirre to resign.
Aguirre said he will continue to serve as long as he has the trust of President Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com