MANILA, Philippines – The Senate minority bloc again called for the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II after he was caught on photo texting the need to “expedite” the cases against opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Antonio Trillanes IV, Leila de Lima, and Hontiveros slammed the recent "unethical actions" of Aguirre’s, who they earlier dubbed as the "fake news king."
“We reiterate our call for Vitaliano Aguirre to resign from his post as Secretary of Justice. This recent development once more highlights his unethical actions as a public official,” the Senate opposition said in a statement on Tuesday, September 12.
The opposition first called for Aguirre’s resignation on August 30 for spreading fake information. Aguirre claimed the Liberal Party attempted to bribe the parents of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos killed by Caloocan police.
“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,” the bloc said.
On Monday, Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech calling for Aguirre’s resignation for violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. (READ: FULL TEXT: Hontiveros asks justice secretary Aguirre to resign)
Hontiveros showed a photo of Aguirre, taken at the September 5 Senate hearing on the death of Kian, stressing to his textmate the need to “expedite” charges against the lady senator. The National Prosecutor Service under the DOJ has the power to decide on the probable causes of these cases.
“Now, he has been caught red-handed plotting against a sitting senator during a hearing where he is supposed to be paying his utmost attention,” the minority bloc said.
“His actions signify a lack of competence for a man who holds the highest office on justice. His actions clearly violate the norms of conduct for public officials under the law,” they said.
In the picture above, Aguirre is seen texting someone named "Cong Jing," who turned out to be former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto "Jing" Paras, a member of the pro-administration Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (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)."
Aguirre, for his part, skirted the propriety of his message and complained about the release of his text message, calling Hontiveros “unethical.”
The Cabinet official also said the "unauthorized prying" and publicizing of the text message "is a flagrant violation of Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wire Tapping Act."
The law, however, does not mention photography. Hontiveros earlier said the photo was “inadvertently” taken by a photojournalist during the public hearing. and that she had it authenticated. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org