Unhappy term’s end
The most apt response from the Senate to the resignation — accepted by President Rodrigo Duterte — of Vitaliano Aguirre II as justice secretary came from Sen. Mary Llamanzares.
“Whether the exit was graceful or unceremonious, one thing is also certain,” said the legislator better known as Grace Poe.
“The actions undertaken by the resigned official while in office can be assessed and if abuses or oversight were committed, he cannot claim immunity from having to account for them.”
Indeed, we must not let Aguirre depart in grace and peace from his woebegone stint at the helm of the Department of Justice simply because he is the President’s close friend.
Friendships between public servants ought to make them doubly dedicated to the ones they serve, not assure them of official condonation in case they underperform.
The justice department, under the Administrative Code of 1987 is supposed to administer “the government’s criminal justice system by investigating crimes, prosecuting offenders and overseeing the correctional system.”
Why Aguirre, given behavior antithetical to his mandate lasted so long in office begs answers.
To recall, Aguirre was reprimanded by the Senate after he met with the trader who had bribed his deputies, Jack Lam, in exchange for the release of Chinese nationals unlawfully in his employ.
Aguirre also used an old photo in a foiled effort to accuse opposition legislators like Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano of conniving with the Maute terror group in its attack on Marawi City.
The former justice chief was likewise responsible for downgrading to homicide, a lesser and bailable offense, charges of murder against policemen implicated in the killing of Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa.
During his watch, Aguirre absolved in the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling incident offficials of the Bureau of Customs including Nicanor Faeldon.
Meanwhile, illegal narcotics business in the New Bilibid Prison, the whipping horse of the Duterte administration in its critique of Aguirre’s predecessor, now senator Leila de Lima has continued unabated according to anti-drug czar Aaron Aquino.
The Office of the Ombudsman, one of the last bastions of independence in officialdom should immediately assess to what extent Aguirre may be held legally liable for his most controversial actions and inactions and sue him if necessary.
Likewise, the Ombudsman should assess to what degree the President may have abetted injustice by steadfastly reposing trust in Aguirre.
Only by holding Aguirre accountable for damaging failures can the government expect the people to accept the appointment of new justice chief Menardo Guevarra as more than window dressing.
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