President Rodrigo Duterte is planning a cabinet revamp but is unlikely to fire Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. This is despite the fact that the DOJ has cleared alleged drug lords Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim, and placed alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles under the witness protection program (WPP).
“He really said there were secretaries whose performance he was not happy with, and there will be changes in the Cabinet,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a radio interview on Friday, March 16, noting that the cabinet revamp might happen early next week. However, he did not mention the names of those who will possibly be fired.
“If he no longer trusts a [Cabinet member], the President would not wait for this member to resign, he would really fire this official. As you know, he has fired so many people,” he said, adding that President Duterte would not hesitate to fire the underperformers. Nevertheless, Roque noted that the president still trusts Aguirre as DOJ secretary.
“Even if you don’t take the president literally, you take him all the time seriously. It was a very clear expression of concern that he will not allow suspected drug lords to go scot-free.” Roque told reporters, referring to Duterte’s dissatisfaction on DOJ’s decision to free Espinosa and Lim. Nevertheless, the DOJ is set to further this drug case.
On the other hand, not only Opposition senators have expressed their dismay to the case of Napoles. Among them are Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito. In fact, several other lawmakers have demanded Aguirre to resign over the incident, but the latter said he has no reason to resign.
Aquirre then put the blame to the Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) for not including Espinosa’s confession in a Senate hearing in its complaint as evidence for the latter’s involvement in the illegal drug trade. He insisted that prosecutors only consider statements if they were submitted as evidence.
“Yun pong sinasabi nilang admission ni Kerwin sa Senado, wala pong nag-file niyan. Hindi po iyan isinubmit bilang ebidensya dito sa kaso. Ang mga fiscal, hindi obligadong makinig [sa Senate hearing]. At kahit nakinig sila, unless we are submitting evidence, hindi po iko-consider iyun,” Sec. Aquirre said in a recent radio interview.
(Nobody filed a case on Kerwin’s admission in the Senate. That’s not being submitted as evidence. The fiscals are not obliged to hear the Senate hearing. And even if they listen, I don’t consider it unless we are submitting evidence.)
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