LP hits Aguirre over 'fake news,' denies bribing Kian's parents

MANILA, Philippines – The Liberal Party (LP) on Wednesday, August 30, called on Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to resign over "repeated issuances of erroneous claims."

The LP was referring to Aguirre's interview on DWIZ program "Karambola," where the justice secretary affirmed the radio anchor's information that Kian delos Santos' parents were allegedly offered money.

"May narinig po talaga akong ganyan at 'yan po ay alam naman ninyo, kahit papa'no ay meron tayong mga kaibigang reporter na nagco-cover sa pagmi-meeting nila diyan sa Times Street. At talagang 'yan po ang dumating na balita sa 'kin," Aguirre said.

(I heard about that and you know, I have reporter friends who covered the meeting at Times Street. And that's really the news that reached me.)

The residence of former president Benigno Aquino III, chairman emeritus of the LP, is located at Times Street in Quezon City.

The radio anchor then asked if the alleged payoff was P2 million. "'Yun din po ang narinig ko eh (That's also what I heard)," Aguirre replied.

In a statement on Wednesday, the LP denied bribing the parents of Delos Santos, who was shot dead by police during an August 16 drug raid in Caloocan City.

"The Liberal Party, which has been tagged as 'dilawan,' strongly denies allegations that its members attempted to bribe Saldy and Lorenza delos Santos to use the death of their son Kian for political propaganda," the LP said.

The party added that they have "not made any contact" with Delos Santos' parents except for their expression of sympathy during the teenager's wake and funeral.

Asked for comment, Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said: "As per SOJ (Secretary of Justice), he was asked by Mr Jojo Robles via phone interview if he knew anything about this and according to him he replied that he also heard something about it but he did not mention any amount."

Balmes, quoting Aguirre, added, "I serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority, the President, and not of any political party."

Delos Santos' killing sparked outrage in the country after CCTV footage and witnesses' testimonies indicated he was a victim of an extrajudicial killing. President Rodrigo Duterte also tempered his remarks about his bloody drug war.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has since created a 3-man panel to conduct the investigation into the murder and torture complaints filed against Caloocan City policemen.

'Repeated erroneous claims'

The LP said this was not the first time that Aguirre "lied about the LP," referring to the time when the justice secretary claimed opposition lawmakers met with individuals in Marawi City, and blamed them for the clashes there.

The opposition lawmakers, including Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV of the LP, were able to show proof that they were not in Marawi City on the day that Aguirre claimed the supposed meeting took place.

But Aguirre still issued, and stood by, a department order to investigate the opposition lawmakers over an alleged destabilization plot.

"For his repeated issuances of erroneous claims, thereby diminishing the stature of his office, we call on Secretary Aguirre to resign," the LP said.

In July, a youth group filed an ethics complaint against Aguirre before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly spreading fake news. – with reports from Bea Cupin / Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.