Aguirre says OK, but only if Hontiveros also inhibits from Senate hearings
MANILA (UPDATE)— Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II should inhibit from any investigation into the killing of 11th grader Kian Loyd Delos Santos after questioning the credibility of witnesses, a senator said Friday.
Placing three witnesses — two of them minors — under the justice department’s witness protection program will be like “delivering sheep into the lion’s den,” said Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
The lawmaker had taken custody of witnesses in Delos Santos' Aug. 16 killing, saying they have been receiving threats.
"In the spirit and interest of impartiality and the pursuit of justice, I demand that the justice secretary inhibit himself from all investigations being conducted into the killing of Kian," Hontiveros told reporters.
“Ang ‘fake news king’ ng Padre Faura, ‘areglo king’ na rin,” said the senator, citing Aguirre’s previous decision to downgrade murder charges against policemen who killed Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. in his detention cell in November.
A senate investigation into Espinosa's death had found that the slay was "premeditated and [carried out] with abuse of authority" on the part of police operatives. The accused police officers have managed to post bail after charges against them were downgraded to homicide.
The mother of the 13-year-old witness to Delos Santos' shooting told Hontiveros Friday that she was amenable to having her daughter under the senator's protective custody.
“Naliwanagan na rin ako kaya sumang-ayon na rin ako sa desisyon (nung anak ko) na dun na lamang po, hindi na raw po sila lilipat,” the mother said in a phone patch from Oman, where she is working as a helper.
Hontiveros’ office later released documents showing the mother had authorized her to provide custody and lawyers to the 13-year-old witness and her 16-year-old cousin.
The documents carried the mother’s signatures dated Aug. 24, the day the Senate opened its inquiry into Delos Santos’ killing.
Aguirre earlier questioned the credibility of witnesses, saying they might be “brainwashed” under the care of Hontiveros, an opposition lawmaker.
He said the minor's killing by police had been “blown out of proportion.”
Aguirre said he is willing to inhibit from the case provided that Hontiveros will also stop attending Senate hearings "where her fairness and impartiality are under question."
"Alin ang case na inareglo ko? Dapat itigil niya ang drama niya para 'di siya tawagin drama queen," Aguirre said in a statement.
"I have no problem with that. But she should also inhibit on Senate investigations and other matters where her fairness and impartiality are under question," he said.