Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
What does Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II do with information that he believes to be true, but authorities have dismissed as otherwise?
He stands by it.
Even after the Makati Police chief, Senior Superintendent Dionisio Bartolome, said that the alleged ambush try on a drug convict's wife did not happen, Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the claim made by Lalaine Madrigal Martinez.
"The claim of an ambush by Lalaine Madrigal-Martinez is a serious matter. As Justice Secretary, I take such report, especially by the supposed victim, seriously. I will be remiss in my duty if I did not take it seriously," Aguirre said in a statement on Saturday, February 25.
"That is why I have tasked the NBI to get to the bottom of this. We will come out with a statement after the NBI has finished with its ongoing investigation of the supposed ambush on Lalaine Madrigal-Martinez. I would rather be serious than lax in the discharge of my functions," he added.
In an interview with radio dzMM on Friday, February 24, Aguirre broke the story that Lalaine's car was attacked in Makati. Lalaine is the wife of Noel Martinez, one of the inmates who testified against Senator Leila de Lima in the House probe into the New Bilibid Prison drug trade when De Lima was justice chief.
Noel is among the 8 inmates transferred to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Custodial Center from the NBP before they testified at the congressional inquiry. They reportedly received perks there in exchange for their cooperation with the justice department on the De Lima cases. (READ: FACT CHECK: Did Aguirre reward inmates who testified against De Lima?)
Mum on Madrigal, Alonte
Curiously, the Cabinet official's statement did not address another matter that reporters had asked him through text messages since Friday: the flat-out denials of the two people he alleged to be behind a supposed bribery attempt on inmates. Under the supposed plan, the inmates were offered an astonishing P100 million to recant their testimonies against De Lima, which would supposedly fuel the destabilization of the Duterte administration.
They are former senator Jamby Madrigal, a member of the Liberal Party; and Aguirre's own party mate at the ruling PDP-Laban, Biñan City Representative Marlyn Alonte.
Aguirre alleged that Madrigal is a "cousin" of Lalaine, and that the former senator tried to facilitate the bribe to make the inmates recant their testimonies against De Lima through her "relative."
Madrigal, an LP member, said she hoped that Aguirre "isn't losing his marbles" since he leads a very important office. And if he validated his information, he would have found out that Lalaine is not related to her at all and neither have they met.
She demanded an apology from Aguirre for spreading an "outright lie" against her, and threatened legal action. Though Aguirre didn't order an investigation into the alleged bribery attempt – not yet, anyway – he did not offer any apology to Madrigal either.
Alonte, for her part, said she was willing to take a lie detector test to prove her innocence. The former LP member who jumped ship to the party of President Rodrigo Duterte wondered aloud how she could even be suspected of being part of a destabilization plot against the chairman of her own party.
Alonte also said she was willing to submit her phone records for investigation, since Aguirre's sources claimed that the congresswoman used her phone – she even supposedly agreed to activate her phone's speaker – to talk to the inmates.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr have both dismissed reports about a supposed destabilization plot against the very popular Duterte.
'Wrong, unfounded information'
That same week, a foreign government called out Aguirre for "wrongly" accusing its embassy staff in Manila of involvement in organized crime. At a Senate inquiry into the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, Aguirre said the Korean mafia may be involved in the kidnapping-murder case Jee.
Citing information from an unnamed former NBI official, Aguirre said "even some people in the South Korean embassy are already compromised by this Korean mafia." He indicated that he was inclined to believe this, since he was told by some embassy officials to “stop any further investigation” in connection with the "mafia."
The South Korean government slammed Aguirre's allegation as "wrong, unfounded and misleading" especially as he did not present evidence to substantiate it.
What is the justice secretary thinking? – Rappler.com