House minority urges Duterte to review Cabinet members
President Rodrigo Duterte should “review” the personalities in his cabinet to determine their fitness to hold their position, House of Representatives minority members urged on Wednesday in the wake of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) acquittal of suspected drug lords.
“The justice secretary will be reminded that he is part of the President’s executive family. In matter fulfilling under his jurisdiction, generally, his actions and decisions are deemed those of the President’s,” the minority bloc said in a statement, which was also read by Minority Leader Rep. Danilo Suarez in a briefing.
Just two years into Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s term, minority members said he had “already put under question the integrity of his office and attached agencies.”
“This is alarming, given the vast powers that the secretary of justice can exercise. In light of this, we call upon the President to review the personalities of his official family and determine their fitness to hold their positions,” they added.
Pressed if Aguirre should resign, Buhay party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. said: “Pinagpapaliwanag pa siya eh (He’s being asked to explain)… let’s wait for it.”
The minority bloc likewise questioned why would there be insufficient evidence against self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
“Why would there be insufficient evidence when Espinosa himself admitted being a drug lord? During a Senate investigation in November 2016, Espinosa claimed that he had annual gross sales of P50 million while giving out P20 million as protection money for those involved in his illegal drug network. Where is justice here?” they asked.
“Senator de Lima was indicted because of allegations that she conspired with these personalities. Does this mean that the charges against senator De Lima are baseless?” they added.
Aside from Espinosa, suspected drug triad boss Peter Lim, President Rodrigo Duterte’s “kumpadre” (wedding co-sponsor), was also absolved of drug trafficking charges.
The DOJ panel dismissed the case against suspected drug lords citing the weak evidence presented by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the “inconsistencies” in the testimony of its lone witness, Marcelo Adorco.
The decision, approved by acting-Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr., was issued last Dec. 20, 2017, but was only discovered by media on Monday.
But Aguirre and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the charges against Espinosa, Lim and 20 others had not been dismissed with finality and was still subject to review.
“Wala pa pong pinal na desisyon (There is no final decision yet),” said Roque.
Aguirre has also ordered the creation of a new panel of prosecutors to review the resolution and has directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the prosecutors who dismissed the drug case. /je