Aguirre accuses Hontiveros of violating private communication
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday accused Sen. Risa Hontiveros of violating his right to privacy and the Anti-wiretapping Law for making public a photograph of his supposed exchange of text messages with a former lawmaker.
Aguirre, however, did not refute Hontiveros’ claim that he was plotting to bring criminal cases against her with former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto “Jing” Paras, a volunteer lawyer of the pro-Duterte Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
The justice secretary blasted the senator for invoking legislative immunity in committing what he branded as an “illegal act” when she delivered a privilege speech on Monday.
“I condemn to the highest degree this shameless violation of a citizen’s right to the privacy of communications,” Aguirre said. “I condemn such an act for being unethical and for being unbecoming of a public servant.”
‘Despicable and diabolical’
He said that text messages were private communications.
“Any unauthorized intrusion into such exchanges is illegal and betrays the Constitution,” he said, adding:
“That a public servant will conveniently resort to the protective mantle of a privilege speech makes it more despicable and diabolical.”
In her privilege speech, the senator said Paras had sent a message to Aguirre telling him that “Hontiveros was able to coach the witness. Her questions are leading questions.”
In reply, the justice secretary said: “That is what I’m saying here. Very obvious. That’s why let us expedite your cases against her.”
But Aguirre claimed that he was a “victim” of Hontiveros’ unlawful acts.
“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,” he lamented.
“Any text or SMS (short message service) exchanges in our mobile phones, which are part of our private communications, apparently are no longer private and safe!” he said.
In a separate message to reporters, Aguirre said he was mulling on filing criminal, civil and administrative cases “against all persons responsible.”
Aguirre said: “Beyond the issue of legality is the issue of decency. Anybody who uses the fruits of an unconstitutional or an illegal act is bereft of decency.”
“No secrets. No privacy. No sanctity. No respect. No peace of mind,” he stressed.
In addition, Aguirre raised doubts over Hontiveros’ claim that the photograph showing his exchange of text messages with Paras was not intentional and that it was taken by a member of the media.
“To the supposed member of the media who evidently disregarded the privacy of my communications, if you do truly exist, I say shame on you!” he said. “Let us call a spade a spade. I was targeted. It was never inadvertent.”
As to calls for him to resign, the justice secretary said he would stay in office “for as long as I have the trust and for as long as I enjoy the confidence of President Duterte who appointed me.”
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