MANILA—Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday attended a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Rodrigo Duterte amid rumors he is set to be dismissed by the chief executive.
A photo released by Palace photographers shows Aguirre sitting between Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a television interview that a Cabinet revamp was not on the agenda during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.
The Philippine Star, citing reliable sources, reported that Aguirre, Duterte’s schoolmate and fraternity brother at the San Beda law school, could be fired by the president this week.
Rumors have been swirling that Duterte would soon fire Aguirre over the DOJ’s decisions on certain high-profile cases, including that of drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim.
Amid public outrage and Duterte's displeasure over the dismissal of the charges, Aguirre ordered a new investigation into Espinosa and Lim's drug case, leaving it “wide open” for new evidence and testimonies.
Aguirre earlier dismissed rumors that he was on his way out, saying Duterte continues to trust him.
The Star also reported that Duterte’s trust with Aguirre allegedly started eroding after the justice secretary was implicated in the P50-million bribery scandal involving resigned immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.
Argosino and Robles were recently charged before the anti-graft court by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly extorting money from Chinese businessman Jack Lam.
Aguirre’s role in the bribery scandal was scrutinized after it was revealed that he allegedly agreed to meet with Lam and his representative, Wally Sombero, at a hotel to discuss the arrest of more than 1,000 of Lam’s Chinese employees from the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.
After the meeting, Aguirre allegedly instructed Argosino to face Lam, resulting in the exchange of money that has become one of the first major corruption crises faced by the Duterte government.