Aguirre stays as Justice chief for now

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 05 2018 04:14 AM | Updated as of Jan 14 2019 04:42 PM

MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II will remain in his position as the rumored revamp in President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet did not take place Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said “no such thing,” when asked if Aguirre, Duterte’s schoolmate and fraternity brother at the San Beda law school, was given the boot by the President.

Aguirre attended Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting amid rumors he is next on the President’s chopping block.

A photo released by Duterte’s top aide showed the chief executive with his Cabinet secretaries and advisers. Aguirre is seen smiling and raising his hand behind the President.

The Philippine Star, citing reliable sources, had reported that Aguirre could be fired by the President during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting or anytime 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 himself earlier dismissed rumors that he was on his way out, saying Duterte continues to trust him.

The Philippine Star also reported that Duterte’s trust with Aguirre started eroding after the latter 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 agreed to meet with Lam and his representative, Wally Sombero, at a hotel to discuss the arrest of over 1,000 of Lam’s Chinese employees from the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.

After the meeting, Aguirre 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.