Aguirre wants Hontiveros suspended or expelled over alleged wiretapping

Camille Elemia
Aguirre wants Hontiveros suspended or expelled over alleged wiretapping
Senator Risa Hontiveros dismisses the complaints against her as an attempt to 'deflect' the public from the real issue against Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II filed an ethics complaint against opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros over what he claimed was a violation of his right to privacy.

Aguirre submitted the complaint before the Office of Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, ethics committee chair, on Monday, October 2.

Earlier, Aguirre filed 3 counts of violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Law against Hontiveros before the Pasay City prosecutor, which is under the DOJ.

“[I call] that she be suspended or expelled from the Senate,” Aguirre told reporters. The copy of his complaint has yet to be distributed.

“Yan ang pinaka-grabeng ginawa ng senador. Habang nasa loob ng Senate, vina-violate niya Constitution, sinalaula niya Senado. Ilang beses niya, beginning with September 5, viniolate ang Republic Act 4200,” he said.

(That is the worst thing done by a senator. While inside the Senate, she is violating the Constitution, she destroyed the Senate. She violated RA 4200 several times, beginning September 5.)

Aguirre claimed he was “targeted” by Hontiveros, following a photo that caught him texting former Negros Occidental Representative Jing Paras urging the latter to “expedite” the cases against the senator.

Asked to confirm whether he sent Paras the said text message, Aguirre said: “Ayaw kong sagutin yun kasi lalabo eh.” (I don’t want to answer that because it will muddle the issue.)

“They are irrelevant kasi under the Constitution and under [RA] 4200, anything done in violation of my right cannot be admitted in any forum so it’s as if it was not in existence,” Aguirre said.

He said he got an expert, photographer Christoper Malinawan of Manila Bulletin, to check if the photo of the text conversation was deliberately taken. Citing Malinawan, Aguirre said it is “99% sure” that the photo was not inadvertently taken.

Hontiveros and Aguirre faced off in Monday’s hearing on the killings of minors. Hontiveros said Aguirre is “deflecting” the public from the real issue of a justice secretary using his powers to expedite cases against a sitting senator.

“This is a desperate attempt to deflect public attention from his text conversations, which caught him red-handed plotting against me. This is the real issue here. Secretary Aguirre was caught conspiring, instigating private indivuals to file cases against a sitting senator,” Hontiveros said.

“Huwag na tayo magpaligoy-ligoy pa. Sabi niya bibigyan nya ako ng magandang laban. Magandang laban o lutong macau?” she added. (Let’s not beat around the bush. He said he would give me a good fight. A good fight or a fixed decision?)

Hontiveros also questioned the propriety of Aguirre’s case, as it was filed before the Pasay City prosecutor which was under his jurisdiction.

Aguirre, for his part, claimed courts have jurisdiction on the specific case even as the Ombudsman has authority over elected officials.

Political harassment

With the complaint, Hontiveros is now the 3rd minority senator to face ethics and criminal charges from the administration and its allies. The others are Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Leila de Lima.

The minority bloc slammed the complaint and said it is “a clear case of political harassment and intimidation” in an attempt to silence the opposition and independent institutions like the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Human Rights.

“Secretary Aguirre’s exposed text conversation proves that the filing of charges against Senator Hontiveros has been long planned. Democracy, our democracy, requires and protects a variety of voices. It requires and protects checks and balances, which the opposition provides and which the state has been trying to suppress,” they said in a statement. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com