MANILA – The Senate Minority bloc on Tuesday, September 12 backed Senator Risa Hontiveros’ call for Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to resign after he was “caught red-handed plotting” against her.
Hontiveros, also a member of the Senate minority, earlier released a photo showing Aguirre urging a certain “Cong. Jing” in a text message to expedite a case against her.
“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 Minority bloc said in a statement.
Other Senate minority bloc members include Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV of Nacionalista Party (NP); and Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Benigno Paulo “Bam” Aquino IV, and Leila De Lima who were all members of the Liberal Party (LP).
Earlier this week, Hontiveros released a photo of Aguirre which was “inadvertently” taken by a photojournalist during a Senate probe into the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos last September 5.
In a photo, the Justice secretary can be seen texting “Cong. Jing,” who, according to Hontiveros, is Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) member and former Negros Oriental Representative Jacinto “Jing” Paras.
“Naturuan na ni Hontiveros yung testigo (Hontiveros already coached the witnesses). Her questions are leading questions,” Paras’s message to Aguirre read.
Aguirre was seen typing a reply 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.)”
The minority senators said Aguirre’s actions “signify a lack of competence for a man who holds the highest office on justice” and “clearly violate the norms of conduct for public officials under the law.”
“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,” they added.
The LP senators previously called on Aguirre to resign over his “repeated issuances of erroneous claims,” particularly when he claimed that they attempted to bribe the parents of Delos Santos.
“Last August 30, we called for his resignation due to his propensity for spreading fake information on those he tagged as ‘dilawan’ — for which he had to publicly apologize more than once,” the minority senators recalled.
They went on to say, “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.”
In turn, a sad and enraged Aguirre said he is studying the possibility of filing a case against Hontiveros and the photographer who took the picture.
Cited Article III Section 3(1) of the 1987 Constitution, the justice secretary stressed that text messages are “private communications” and “any unauthorized intrusion into such exchanges is illegal and betrays the Constitution.”
“I am saddened, enraged, and more importantly, afraid of how our rights to the privacy of our communication can easily be disregarded and trampled upon…and the people who subsequently trumpeted it, did so in the very hallowed halls of the Senate itself,” the justice secretary said.
He described the released of his controversial photo as a “shameless violation of a citizen’s right to the privacy of communications.”
Aguirre went on to say, “I am saddened by the thought that while I gave my time, cooperation and humble efforts to the Senate during the hearing, unknown to me, I will be victimized and my rights disregarded and my privacy intruded upon.”