MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Alberto Agra on Monday said he will not step down amid calls that he resign for clearing two members of the Ampatuan clan in the Maguindanao massacre case.
Agra also said he will not inhibit himself from reviewing an appeal on his resolution absolving Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano Mayor Akmad Ampatuan in the massacre case.
"I will not resign. I have no plans of withdrawing from the challenges that this office holds. I will not inhibit myself in review of resolution. I will not create a panel. I will give out my decision on motion for reconsideration regarding the clearing of 2 Ampatuans this week," he said after the justice department's flag ceremony Monday.
He added that he will no longer grant media interviews until he issues his decision on the appeal.
Agra's resolution absolving the 2 Ampatuans from the November 23 mass murder has been assailed not just by the opposition but even by state prosecutors and administration bet Gilberto Teodoro.
Families of the victims also publicly condemned Agra's decision, with some saying that the dropping of the charges could be part of a wider plot to rig the May 10 national elections.
Prosecutors handling the case have defied Agra’s order for them to file a motion before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to withdraw the criminal information filed against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan despite possible administrative sanctions that may be imposed against them.
On Monday, the justice secretary reiterated that he did not receive a single centavo to absolve the 2 Ampatuans. He also admitted being hurt by attacks to his character but said he will not bow to political dictates or public opinion.
"I take full responsibility for the vilification. For so long as I did my job, I said I would be all right. The last 10 days have been the most trying. I am the most hated man in the country. I stand by my decision. My heart is with victims but my mind is with the rule of law," he said.
Agra also thanked government employees who have voiced their support for his decision. Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta said she respects Agra and that any decision of the DOJ chief should be respected by his subordinates.
Several prosecutors who attended the ceremony wore black ribbons as a sign of protest to Agra's decision. They later told ABS-CBN News that they did not know the people who participated in Monday's flag-raising ceremony.
It was later learned that many of those who attended the ceremony were employees of the Public Attorney's Office and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which Agra once headed. -- reports from Ces Drilon, Timi Nubla, ABS-CBN News