CA confirms Aguirre despite Trillanes’ opposition

MANILA — The Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed on Wednesday the ad interim appointment of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitallano Aguirre II despite another move by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to suspend his confirmation.

Upon the motion of CA committee on justice and judicial and bar council chairperson Loren Legarda, the CA body unanimously confirmed Aguirre’s appointment at the plenary hall.

“I can sleep well now,” said Aguirre whose confirmation was deferred two weeks ago upon the request of Trillanes.

Aguirre promised to redouble his efforts to be of service to the Filipino people.

“I come to you not asking for your charity nor dole out. I offered my heart and my integrity in the service of the people. I will redouble my efforts to fully implement the President’s (Rodrigo Duterte) marching orders to wage war against illegal drugs, corruption and all forms criminality,” he said.

Early Wednesday, the CA panel conducted executive session to tackle Trillanes’ opposition, particularly the so-called confidential memorandum submitted by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief legal officer Alvin Herrera Lim to BuCor Director General Benjamin delos Santos.

In the memorandum dated December 9, 2016, Lim claimed Aguirre had allowed certain high profile inmates who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima, to enjoy lavish lifestyles while under confinement at Camp Aguinaldo.

Lim said the inmates were allowed to use electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air conditioning units, internet and cellular.

“It appears now that Mr. Aguirre is the one guilty of the acts he is accusing Sen. De Lima of committing,” Trillanes told the CA panel.

During last year’s House inquiries on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the national penitentiary, high profile inmates claimed that then Justice secretary De Lima allowed the high profile prisoners to enjoy lavish and luxurious lifestyles inside New Bilibid Prison.

Trillanes said Aguirre should be properly investigated for “these very serious allegations”.

The senator also questioned Aguirre’s qualification based on Philippine Daily Inquirer’s report where the newspaper quoted Aguirre to have said that “criminals are not human” amid the government’s strong war against illegal drugs.

Trillanes also criticized Aguirre for calling him coward, “gagong senator” (stupid senator) and “sundalong kanin” (useless soldier) in connection with senator’s accusation that Aguirre took part in the alleged bribery scandal involving Chinese casino mogul Jack Lam.

In his response, Aguirre denied Lim’s claims that he allowed high profile inmates to have lavish lifestyles, saying “it’s very clear here that the violations were not personally seen by Atty. Lim.”

“There’s no proof that there were electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air-conditioning units, internets, cellular phones. These are all hearsay because Atty. Lim did not see these,” Aguirre said.

The newly-confirmed DOJ chief also clarified that he never said criminals are not human although he admitted saying the criminals are not humanity.

“I distinctly remember saying that criminals, drug lords and drug pushers are not humanity. I did not say that they are not human but you could equate these drug pushers as humanity,” he clarified.

Aguirre also apologized to Trillanes for calling him stupid senator while vehemently denying accusation that he took part in the PHP50-million Jack Lam bribery scandal.

“I’m really wrong in name calling your person. That was the only time I lost my cool because you are accusing me of complexity in the Jack Lam case. I value my honor and integrity more than my life,” Aguirre said, adding he was the one who exposed to the media the bribery scandal.

“Due to the pressure and volume of my work, I might have hurt people in my choice of words and for that I profusely apologize specifically to Senator Trillanes,” he added.

Trillanes accepted Aguirre’s ‘sincerest apology’, saying he believes that the DOJ top official “learned his lessons.”

The senator, however, insisted that Aguirre should be investigated over the supposed BuCor’s ‘confidential memorandum’.

Aguirre explained that four major personalities, including Bureau of Immigration (BI) deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles have cleared his name.

The DOJ official also clarified that he never allowed Wally Sombero, another personality linked to Jack Lam bribery case, to leave the country.

Despite Trillanes’ strong opposition, 12 members of the CA panel voted to recommend the confirmation of Aguirre at the plenary session.