MANILA - Several senators on Thursday welcomed the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as they noted how the credibility of the Department of Justice (DOJ) had been tarnished under his watch.
Opposition Sen. Bam Aquino, in a statement, said Filipinos deserve a "credible, capable and respectable Justice Secretary who will lead with integrity and rebuild our trust in the Department of Justice."
"Natutuwa tayo at nagkakaisa ang oposisyon at ang Pangulo sa isyung ito. Sa mata ng taumbayan, pawala na nang pawala ang kredibilidad ni dating Justice Secretary Aguirre sa bawat kapalpakan at palihis na kilos nito," he said.
"Muli nating ibalik ang tiwala ng taumbayan sa DOJ bilang tanggapan na nagtataguyod ng hustisya para sa bawat Pilipino, lalo na sa mga walang kalaban-laban."
Minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros described Aguirre's resignation as a "clear victory against injustice and impunity."
The senator added that President Rodrigo Duterte's acceptance of Aguirre's resignation "absolves" him of accountability and "amounts to little more than a sorry attempt on the part of the President to save face despite Aguirre's repeated fiascos."
"The damage is done. By being allowed to stay in his post for the longest time, Mr. Aguirre turned the justice department into a leading purveyor of fake news, a manufacturer of fake legal cases to harass the opposition, and a refuge for drug lords, plunderers, and other high-profile criminals," she said.
Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, said Aguirre should be held liable for his actions as justice secretary even as he has stepped down.
"Whether the exit was graceful or unceremonious, one thing is also certain—the actions undertaken by the resigned official while in office can be assessed and if abuses or oversight were committed, he cannot claim immunity from having to account for them. Hindi maaaring kapag napaso sa publiko, papalitan na lang nang walang kaparusahan o pagkastigo man lang," she said.
"The next step is for the President to endorse a new Justice Secretary to the Commission on Appointments, which vets the nominees. We welcome this opportunity for the Chief Executive to appoint a replacement suited for the position."
Some senators had earlier scored Aguirre for unverified information he had made public, including allegations of destabilization against the opposition.
Hontiveros' party Akbayan Partylist, meanwhile, said Aguirre should not be allowed to hold public office again.
"Akbayan, likewise, calls for the Filipino public to be vigilant over Aguirre's resignation. Aguirre should not be promoted to other public offices nor be allowed to run for [the] Senate or be elected in the Supreme Court, following the public's overwhelming rejection of him," it said.
Aguirre, the President's classmate and fraternity brother at the San Beda law school, recently drew flak over the justice department'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.
Duterte has named Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra to succeed Aguirre as justice secretary.