MANILA - Former lawmaker and lawyer Jacinto Paras on Monday filed criminal charges of wiretapping, kidnapping and obstruction of justice against Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Paras lodged 3 counts of violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Law
against Hontiveros for exposing a telling exchange of text messages between a member of the group and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Hontiveros, in a privilege speech, had accused Aguirre of using his position to harass opposition senators by threatening them with lawsuits.
Hontiveros presented a photo of the exchange of text messages between Aguirre and a certain “Cong. Jing”, presumably Paras, in which the justice chief is seen saying that cases against the senator must be expedited.
"That kind of recording, by the use of a device recording a private conversation without authority from the people who are conversing is a violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Law," Paras said.
The photo of Aguirre which captured his text message exchanges with Cong. Jing was taken during a Senate hearing on drug war killings. The text messages can be read by zooming in on the photo.
Paras also sought the indictment of the senator for kidnapping and obstruction of justice for taking custody of the witnesses to the killing of Caloocan teenager Kian Loyd delos Santos.
Paras believes the ultimate goal of Hontiveros in her actions is to discredit the Duterte administration.
The senator and her allies have said a wiretapping case in connection with the issue has no basis, as there was no clear intent on the part of the photographer to capture the text messages of Aguirre.
In a statement, Hontiveros described the case as a "desperate attempt to deflect public attention away from their text conversation inadvertently captured by someone's camera lens, which caught them red-handed plotting against me during a Senate hearing inside the Senate."
Hontiveros said if anything, the case "confirms the conspiracy hatched by Secretary Aguirre and his VACC to 'expedite' the filing of cases against me. It also confirms that the 'Cong. Jing' whom Secretary Aguirre was texting was former Representative Jacinto Paras."
"Bistong-bisto na, buking na buking na, nagpapalusot pa. Nais pa magtago sa likod ng mga walang batayang kaso," she said.
"Hindi ito dapat pag-aksayahan ng panahon at pansin ng mamamayan. We will not be distracted. Tuloy ang ating kampanya para sa katarungan at para panagutin si Secretary Aguirre at pagbitiwin siya sa kanyang puwesto."
Paras filed the complaint against Hontiveros before the Office of the Ombudsman, together with fellow lawyers Eligio Mallari and Nestor Inuring.
Paras is a former representative of Negros Oriental and has represented the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) in several cases.
An earlier version of this story said the VACC filed the case against Hontiveros. VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez however clarified that the case was an independent undertaking of the complainants.