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Aguirre faces complaint over ‘fake news’

Aguirre alleged in June that minority lawmakers met in Marawi City before clashes there erupted. File

MANILA, Philippines —A youth group on Wednesday filed a collective administrative ethics complaint against Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II before the Office of the Ombudsman.

A youth group called Millennial Against Dictators accused Aguirre of violating Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Official and Employees, when he issued false allegations against several politicians and individuals.

Last month, Aguirre accused Senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV (Liberal Party) and Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV (Nacionalista Party), along with Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and former Aquino political adviser Ronaldo Llamas, of “sparking the Marawi siege and meeting to discuss plans to destabilize the government,” the group said.

The complaints cited that as alter ego of the president, Aguirre holds one of the most powerful and influential public offices in the Philippines yet he “failed to used even reasonable skill and diligence” when he linked the officials.

They then slammed Aguirre for resorting to an unverified Facebook photo as part of his evidence to insinuate the officials’ connection with terrorists. The photo, which Aguirre denied showing to media, turned out to have been taken in the Visayas in 2015. Video of Aguirre showing the photo on his mobile phone has been shown on TV reports on the issue. 

Those Aguirre named have all denied being in Marawi on the day that the Justice secretary said the meeting happened. 

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READ: Aguirre links opposition slons to Marawi, Resorts World | Opposition twits Aguirre for 'Facebook intel'

The complainants also cited Aguirre wrongly tagging the South Korean Embassy in the Philippines in the killing of Korean national Jee Ick-Joo and linking former Sen. Jamby Madrigal to a supposed attempt to bribe witnesses against detained Sen. Leila De Lima to recant their statements.

The 12-page complaint also noted how the Justice secretary has issued contradictory statements that the youth group said “cast doubt to his competence.”

The youth group said the Aguirre violated the 1987 Constitution when “he refused to take responsibility for his actions as Justice secretary despite making false and misleading allegations.”

“As head of the Department of Justice, Respondent falls short of the exacting standards required of a public office and thus must no less be removed from office in order to preserve the image of the justice system and restore the public's trust in government,” the collective complaint read.

“By the very nature of his duties, respondent must faithfully adhere to and hold sacred the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust and must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with unknown responsibility integrity, loyalty and efficiency,” it said.

The complainants asking for the removal of Aguirre to office are youth leaders namely Shamah Bulangis, Michelle Olmedill Yu, Andrei Kristian Bautista, Ana Marie Mercaldi, Ma. Ana Fatima Tolentino, Nikki Masibay Nicolas, Julie-Ann Kris Corridor, Rae Emmanuel Echaveria, and Jonna Feliz Cajayon Roldan.

They represent Akbayan Youth and other groups.

The ombudsman is mandated to handle complaints against government officials and enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants in order to promote efficient service by the government.

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