Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II scored a victory on Wednesday after a panel of the Commission on Appointments recommended his confirmation despite the objections of Sen. Antonio Trillanes.
Trillanes said the move was a “political decision” as the the nod on Aguirre’s confirmation was decided after the panel held an executive session.
“At the end of the day it will be a political decision of the CA and sadly we have to live with that,” the military man-turned-lawmaker said.
During the confirmation hearing, Trillanes argued that Aguirre was unfit to become justice secretary due to his alleged involvement in several anomalies in the Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Immigration.
Among the issues raised against the justice chief were the granting of special privileges to inmates who testified against Senator Leila de Lima and the bribery scandal involving two former immigration deputies.
Trillanes said Aguirre “appears to be the one guilty of the acts he is accusing Senator De Lima of committing.”
“That is allowing the inmates to enjoy lavish and luxurious lifestyles and the privilege of being able to communicate and being able to go about their illicit businesses while in detention,” he said.
A leaked confidential memorandum, dated December 9, 2016 by Atty. Alvin Herrera Lim, chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Office, claimed Aguirre allowed prohibited items and fixtures at the AFP Custodial Center allegedly in exchange for a testimony that pinned De Lima during the NBP illegal drug trade congressional inquiry.
Trillanes said it was inappropriate for Aguirre to conduct a probe on the document’s leakage.
“He (Aguirre) ordered to conduct an investigation on the matter despite the fact he is the one being clearly charged with committing an anomaly and irregularity, thus, showing his complete lack of even the most basic sense of decency and propriety.”
Aguirre earlier said “the issue will not affect his chances of being confirmed by the Commission on Appointments” as the accusation is “baseless.”
But Trillanes asked the Senate Committee on Appointments to issue a subpoena to officials of the AFP Custodial Center and ask them to bring copies of the investigation results on the alleged lavish lifestyles.
Lim is also expected to be summoned to the Senate and will be asked to bring the original document that will supposedly prove that Aguirre gave a go signal for the inmates’ perks.
A Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation on the alleged acceptance of bribes of two Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials may also hinder Aguirre’s confirmation.
Associate Commissioner Al C. Argosino, Associate Commissioner Michael B. Robles and Acting BI Intelligence Chief Police Director Charles T. Calima Jr. allegedly accepted P50 million from Chinese gambling tycoon Jack Lam to release thousands of Chinese workers arrested in Pampanga.
The deal was said to be facilitated by Wally Sombero, an alleged agent of gambling tycoon Lam.
Trillanes accused Aguirre of allowing Sombero to fly abroad despite the issue, but the justice secretary said it was the BI’s responsibility to keep Sombero in the country as the DOJ already issued a look-out bulletin against him.
“I never issued an allow departure order for Sombero… We can only stop him (Sombero) if our attention is called by an immigration officer on duty. Unfortunately, such was not done in this case,” Aguirre said.
“All four major participants in bribery scandal have cleared me of any involvement,” Aguirre added.
‘CRIMINALS ARE NOT HUMANS’
Trillanes also said Aguirre is unfit to become justice secretary after he was quoted as saying that, “criminals are not human.”
“With this clearly warped and twisted sense of reason, it is not difficult to imagine how Mr. Aguirre would be able to justify in his mind the inhumane and indecent treatment of criminals… who are entitled to human rights,” he said.
But Aguirre argued that he “was misquoted” by several media agencies that published the story.
“I only said their acts were not human,” he told senators.
He said he has written a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Jose Ma. Nolasco to express his “disappointment” about “editorializing” his statements.
AGUIRRE SAYS SORRY
Aguirre, whose confirmation lies with the approval of lawmakers, apologized to senators whom he called names.
Aguirre has called Trillanes “sundalong kanin” (useless soldier) and “gagong senador” (stupid senator) during his first few months as justice secretary.
“I am sorry for the name calling… Due to the pressure and volume of my work, I may have hurt people in my choice of words so I apologize, specifically to Senator Trillanes,” Aguirre said.
The justice secretary said he “lost his cool” after Trillanes accused him of having a hand in the bribery scandal that hounded the BI.
Aguirre reminded Trillanes that he was instrumental in publicizing the Oakwood mutineers’ “complaints and misgivings about the government of President Gloria Arroyo.”
“Oakwood mutineers, led by Trillanes, would not talk to any lawyers being sent by the government… I was the only one who they trusted. They all gave their reasons why they went against the government,” Aguirre said.