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Aguirre’s secret resignation statement

/ 05:09 AM April 10, 2018

A day after President Duterte accepted his resignation as justice secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre issued a platitudinous statement that took all of 10 paragraphs to say nothing. “In our own humble way, we have delivered on our promise to make the DOJ better than when we found it.” After enduring repeated rounds of resignation rumors, the public had wanted an explanation why one of the President’s closest allies, a proud and defiant wielder (and welder) of one of the hot irons of the Duterte brand, was out of the corral. Instead, it received a statement apparently written by rejected Hallmark writers.

“As I leave the Department of Justice, I find comfort in the thought that, by our collective efforts, we have improved the DOJ in key areas. We have achieved this by hard work and indomitable faith in the protection, providence and guidance of the Almighty.”

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We will not gainsay Aguirre’s personal relationship with his God, but will only point out that even the devil quotes from scripture, or adverts to the protection and providence of God. Like charity, the rationalizing reference to the Almighty can cover a multitude of sins.

“The DOJ is better not because of me but because everybody committed heart, body and soul to march towards a single cadence.”

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Now there’s the problem, right there. I don’t mean just the erroneous English, though the DOJ under Aguirre was not exactly known for clarity of argument and elegance of phrasing. Disciplined units march IN single cadence, not toward it. I mean Aguirre’s understanding of what the work of his department was all about, as betrayed by this revealing mistake. He had attempted to make it march to a single beat — and that single cadence, tragically for the nation, was to weaponize the rule of law.

After all, this is the same justice secretary who helped manufacture so-called evidence against his predecessor, Sen. Leila de Lima, with the engineered help of convicted drug lords; if a thriving drug trade conducted from the National Bilibid Prison was proof that De Lima, the first justice secretary to conduct sweeping drug raids in the national penitentiary, was involved in drugs, what does that say about Aguirre, under whose watch the honor of the elite police unit was stained and the drug trade continues to thrive? But knowing that De Lima was at the top of the President’s enemies list, we can read another meaning into this cliché: “In our own humble way, we have delivered on our promise to make the DOJ better than when we found it.”

Aguirre is the same justice secretary who was implicated in a P50-million bribery attempt — which he himself confirmed in a Senate hearing — with a Chinese gaming tycoon who was looking for a padrino. He said he turned down the overtures; instead of politely turning the page, why didn’t he throw the book at the corruptor? His department later managed to misplace P1,000 from the P50-million bribe money, conveniently but also transparently allowing the downgrading of the case from the nonbailable charge of plunder.

“I find comfort in the thought that, by our collective efforts, we have improved the DOJ in key areas”—indeed.

Aguirre is the same justice secretary who spread false information about the supposed role of opposition lawmakers in the siege of Marawi; who was seen in public exchanging messages with supposed independent parties to file charges against opposition personalities; who cleared the Customs officials implicated in the P6.4-billion shabu smuggling scandal (they were close to the President and the President’s own son was also implicated); who downgraded the murder charges against the policemen who executed Mayor Rolando Espinosa in jail to homicide (the President has continued to defend Supt. Marvin Marcos); and under whose watch the DOJ issued a resolution dismissing drug charges against confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, suspected top drug lord Peter Lim (a compadre of the President’s), and others. Truly, there is no end to what one can do given “hard work and indomitable faith in the protection, providence and guidance of the Almighty.”

And yet I still maintain my belief, based on my single personal encounter and interview with Aguirre, that he was a lawyer forced to do what he otherwise would not have done. This does not excuse his abuse of power or mitigate his personal liability; it only contextualizes the self-abasement Dutertismo requires. In other words, he was the President’s own hot iron—now discarded because turned brittle from overuse.

I can imagine his real, secret postresignation statement is a short and simple one: Thank God that’s done. But he is, too.

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On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand

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TAGS: Department of Justice, DOJ, john Nery, Newsstand, Rodrigo Duterte, Vitaliano Aguirre III
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