CA confirms Menardo Guevarra as justice secretary

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed on Wednesday, May 30, the appointment of Menardo Guevarra as secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Before his appointment was confirmed, Senator Francis Pangilinan raised the issue of the DOJ contracts worth P12.4 million awarded to the security firm of Solicitor General Jose Calida in 2017. Guevarra said he will proceed to review the contracts.

Guevarra was accompanied to the Senate on Wednesday by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, his former boss at Malacañang. The two are close, having worked at the same law firm before.

Guevarra said he was surprised when President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him to the DOJ on April 15, replacing Vitaliano Aguirre II who resigned following controversies at the justice department. (READ: Who is new justice chief Menardo Guevarra?)

"We barely saw each other in Malacañang. I guess the President has his own quiet and personal way of sizing up persons," Guevarra said.

He added that he "politely declined" when it was offered to him the first time, saying he was "perfectly happy" with his job at the Palace.

Guevarra was senior deputy executive secretary, or the second-man to Medialdea. Guevarra was also a Palace official during the administration of Benigno Aquino III, serving as deputy executive secretary for legal affairs.

"My Jesuit education, my 30 years of intensive law practice, my 20 years of teaching at Ateneo Law, and my work at the highest office of the land that spanned two administrations have equipped me for the daunting challenge of being secretary of justice," Guevarra said.

He added: "I want to see again a DOJ that is worthy of its name. I want to see again an army of dedicated professionals bearing the sword of the law in their hands."

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea accompanies Justice Sec Menardo Guevarra for the latter’s confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/NAOvk42P79 — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) May 30, 2018

 

During the CA hearing, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson grilled Guevarra regarding the policy on detaining high-profile drug suspects when they have been cleared by the prosecution but the cases are on automatic review.

Guevarra said that without a court order, and when the prosecutor's resolution is to dismiss the case, the "practice" of the DOJ has been to release suspects. 

Lacson and Sotto asked Guevarra if he could return to the old policy of keeping them detained, in order to keep watch over them while the case is on automatic review.

"We shall study that very carefully especially in the light of the recent Supreme Court decision on the invalidity of hold departure orders and watchlists issued by the DOJ," Guevarra said.

He added that Congress should pass legislation that would authorize the DOJ to keep suspects without warrants from leaving the country.

"That satisfies my apprehensions," Sotto said.

Actions so far

Guevarra's first major move at the DOJ was an overhaul: he ordered all of Aguirre's undersecretaries and assistant secretaries to resign.

Guevarra then terminated the Witness Protection Program coverage of alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles, citing the lack of additional proof of threat to the businesswoman's safety inside Camp Bagong Diwa.

Guevarra also extended the stay of Australian nun Patricia Fox, who was ordered to leave the country by the Bureau of Immigration over alleged political activities, and whose missionary visa was forfeited.

In a statement on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque welcomed the CA's confirmation of Guevarra, as well as of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones, and Commission on Elections Commissioner Socorro Inting.

"The confirmation of the aforementioned officials reflects the full confidence [in] the competence and integrity of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's recent appointees. It's time to work, work, work to realize the President's vision of a comfortable life for all Filipinos," said Roque. – 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.

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