MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he got just one instruction from President Rodrigo Duterte after he was sworn into office late Thursday: "Do what is right."
Guevarra replaced former justice chief Vitaliano Aguirre, who resigned this week following criticism of the Department of Justice's decision to clear drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim.
Duterte announced on Thursday that he accepted Aguirre's resignation. Guevarra was previously senior deputy executive secretary.
"I thank the president for his trust. His sole instruction to me: Do what is right," Guevarra said in a text message.
Guevarra also worked under the administration of Duterte's predecessor, former Pres. Beningo Aquino, as head of the "truth commission" that was tasked to investigate alleged irregularities of the Arroyo government. The Supreme Court declared the truth body as illegal.
He later served as deputy executive secretary for legal affairs in 2015 and later as commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission in 2016.
As deputy executive secretary for legal affairs, Guevarra played a role in the Philippines’ arbitration case against China before a UN-backed tribunal.
Guevarra took up graduate studies in Economics at the University of the Philippines after obtaining his political science degree at the Ateneo de Manila in 1974.
He worked as staff economist at the National Economic and Development Authority and at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as he was taking up law at the Ateneo.
Guevarra placed second in the 1985 Bar examinations. His first job as a lawyer was with the technical staff of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.
He later joined a law firm and formed his own law partnership in 1990. He also served as faculty member of the Ateneo Law School.