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Filipino bishops welcome justice secretary's resignation

Vitaliano Aguirre favored rich and pwerful, did not do his job properly, they say

Filipino bishops welcome justice secretary's resignation

Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II resigned over allegations that he was not doing his job. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

Joe Torres, Manila
Philippines

April 6, 2018

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The Philippines' justice secretary has resigned, with two Catholic bishops saying they will not shed any tears because he did "not do his job well."

President Rodrigo Duterte announced on April 5 that he had accepted the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, whose performance reportedly dissatisfied the president.

Last month, prosecutors under Aguirre dismissed charges against a self-confessed drug lord and his alleged partner who were among the first to get death threats from the president.

Early in his presidency, Duterte threatened to go after all drug dealers in the country in his "total war" against illegal drugs.

Human rights groups claim about 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users, mostly from urban poor communities, have been killed in the president's anti-narcotics war.

But the dismissal of charges against an alleged big-time drug lord raised doubts about the legitimacy and sincerity of the government's war on drugs.

Catholic Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said he was "happy Aguirre decided to resign" because he "was not doing his job well as a secretary of justice."

The prelate said the exoneration of the self-confessed drug lord was a sign of Aguirre's "bias for the rich and powerful even if they were criminals."

Bishop Bastes said the dismissal of the charges against the drug dealers "encouraged drug lords to continue their criminal activities and the proliferation of extra judicial killings and murders." 

"He was a secretary of injustice," said the prelate.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also welcomed Aguirre's resignation.

"Thanks be to God that he resigned. He was so erratic as secretary in his sense of justice. The decision is good for him and the country," he said.

Opposition legislators agreed with the bishops.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said Aguirre's resignation came too late. "The damage is done," she said, adding that the former minister had turned the Justice Department into "a manufacturer of fake legal cases to harass the opposition."

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the credibility of the Department of Justice has suffered due to Aguirre's blunders.

The Catholic bishops expressed hope that the new justice secretary appointed by Duterte will do better than Aguirre and "serve the cause of justice."

The president has announced that lawyer, Menardo Guevarra, the president's senior deputy executive secretary, will replace Aguirre.

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