MANILA, Philippines – The spotlight is on Alberto Agra, the acting justice secretary who made a controversial move on the murder case involving the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province.
Who is he?
Agra assumed his post at the Justice Department on March 3, 2010. He replaced former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera who resigned to seek a seat in Congress.
Aside from the post in the Justice Department, Agra is the concurrent Solicitor General, a position he assumed on January 8, 2010.
He currently sits on an interim basis in the 8-man Judicial Bar Council, the body that vets nominees to the courts, representing the Justice Department.
Agra is known as someone who is loyal to President Arroyo. He served as President Arroyo’s lawyer when congressment tried to impeach her in 2006.
He was one of those who defended President Arroyo when issues were raised against her numerous cabinet appointments. Most of these appointments have fixed terms, which means the next president will not be able to replace them during that tenure.
Agra said these did not violate any law since they were made before the appointment ban took place. The executive department is banned from appointing new officials two months before the May 2010 polls.
Agra first joined the government in March 2007 when he was appointed head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), the agency that represents government-owned and controlled establishments in legal proceedings.
He was eventually appointed to head the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Regulatory Office, a position he relinquished in June 2008 because of conflict of interests allegations.
He previously taught at the Ateneo Law School, his alma mater. Since 2003 he taught Law on Public and Government Corporations, Election Law, the 1991 Local Government Code, Administrative Law, and Law on Public Officers
He graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. He finished law at the Ateneo de Manila where he graduated in 1990. He passed the bar in 1991.
Not Ampatuan lawyer?
State prosecutors and relatives of the slain victims 57 people assailed his decision to absolve 2 leaders of the Ampatuan clan from the Maguindanao massacre case—Zaldy Ampaturan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and kin Akmad Ampatuan, former Maguindanao vice governor.
Murder charges were filed against the two Ampatuans for allegedly slaying 57 people, including 32 journalists, in November 2009. The case is being watched by the international community as a gauge of the government's determination and resolve to stamp out the culture of impunity.
He was quick to stress that his decision was based only on the evidence presented to him. In an interview with ANC’s The Rundown on Monday, he said he there were “no considerations” when he made his decision.
“I am not a vindictive person,” he told The Rundown. “I was never a lawyer for the Ampatuans,” he added.
Controversy surrounds this decision due to Agra’s link to President Arroyo, who was close to the Ampatuans.
The Ampatuan clan had been responsible for securing enough votes from Mindanao for President Arroyo when she was seeking legitimacy during the presidential elections in 2004. – with reports from Jorge Cariño of ABS-CBN News, and Faye Monchelle Gonzalez, a Halalan 2010 Volunteer