‘Sue me’: Aguirre dares Tulfo to bring ‘goods’ on ‘pastillas’ syndicate protector claim
MANILA, Philippines — Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday dared former presidential special envoy to China and columnist Ramon Tulfo to file cases against him over allegations that he provided protection to a syndicate facilitating the purported “pastillas” bribery scheme in the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
During a Senate hearing of the committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality on the alleged scam, Aguirre reiterated his innocence to the “malicious imputation” of Tulfo.
“I have been a member of the Bar for 48 years of good standing. I have no derogatory records. I graduated valedictorian at San Beda College of Law. In short, my reputation, as well as my family’s good name, is at stake here,” he told the committee.
“I, therefore, challenge Mr. Tulfo, if you have ‘the goods,’ file the corresponding case and face me before the proper forum. You have absolutely no right to use this august body to malign and discredit me or bring dishonor to my family,” the former Justice Secretary added.
In a February 25 column, Tulfo quoted whistleblower and immigration officer Allison Chiong as saying that a top official is receiving his “share of the loot” of the “pastillas” scheme, or the alleged illegal airport escort service catering to Chinese nationals, via a chartered helicopter from Manila. It was in March when Tulfo said during a Senate hearing that he was referring to Aguirre.
But for Aguirre, the allegations fired by Tulfo against him are only “fueled by personal vendetta and dirty politics.”
“Similarly, not an iota of evidence was presented during the previous hearings conducted by this committee linking me to the pastillas scheme. Even Mr. Allison Chiong, the alleged whistleblower, never once mentioned my name in the entire proceedings. It was only Mr. Tulfo who repeatedly mentioned my name sans any concrete evidence,” he added.
Aguirre said he even handled the criminal cases Tulfo previously filed against Raymart Santiago and Claudine Baretto, when Santiago “mauled” Tulfo at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 2012.
But he added that their “friendship went sour” when he, as then DOJ chief, did not grant Tulfo’s request to consolidate more than 90 cases filed against him by the Iglesia Ni Cristo. He said Tulfo was complaining of inconvenience and the additional burden of expenses in traveling throughout the country to answer the INC complaints.
“My refusal to disregard the procedure involving his motion for consolidation of case got me the ire of Mr. Tulfo. He accused me of courting favor from the INC as I had plans to run for senator in the May 2019 election,” said Aguirre.
He added that a few weeks after that, Tulfo had started writing “libelous” articles against him, which were the subject of the libel and cyberlibel cases the former DOJ chief filed against the columnist that are pending before the Manila Regional Trial Court.
In denying Tulfo’s claims, Aguirre also pointed out that it has been two years since he resigned as Secretary of Justice.
“As such, I am bereft of any authority to control, much less head a syndicate operating in the BI,” he said.
“Tulfo’s accusation serves not only to defame me but constitutes an affront to BI commissioner Jaime Morente and SOJ Menardo Guevara’s authority. He made them appear as lame ducks for allegedly allowing me to wield such power over the said government agency despite being already out of office,” he added.
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