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Aguirre blames groups protecting witnesses for probe delays

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre lamented that he was "targeted" and warned that what was done to him could be done to another person. On Monday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros noted that a screenshot of Aguirre's phone showed a text exchange with a certain "Cong. Jing" where the justice chief is said to be ordering the latter to hasten the case build-up against her. Hontiveros is part of the Senate Senate minority critical of the mounting deaths in the Duterte administration's drug war. King Rodriguez/PPD, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II hit groups offering protection to witnesses in teenage slay cases allegedly carried under the government’s bloody war against illegal drugs.

The Justice chief said that the groups protecting witnesses are delaying investigation proceedings.

“Ang concern naming ay naaabala ang imbestigasyon,” Aguirre said in a press conference.

“Bakit ayaw ibigay sa kapulisan, samantalang pare-pareho lang kami na gustong palabasin ang katotohanan?” he said of witnesses in cases where Caloocan City police officers have been implicated.

Earlier, Aguirre and Sen. Risa Hontiveros were at loggerheads over who should provide protection to witnesses in the killing of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos who was killed in an apparent rubout by Caloocan police.

Aguirre has accused Hontiveros of influencing the witnesses when she put them under her office’s protective custody during Kian’s wake. He said that that the senator should hand over the witnesses to the DOJ.

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Hontiveros, however, replied that Aguirre should inhibit from Kian’s case due to his “one-sided statements.”

“Magkakaroon ng [hindi] pagsasabi ng katotohanan sapagkat nagkakaroon ng ugnayan dun sa mga may interes na hindi mo makuha ang katotohanan,” Aguirre said.

'NBI agents told to write down questions'

The Justice chief also said that the NBI, whom he ordered to conduct a separate probe on Kian’s death, was met with obstacles when they were trying to interview the witnesses.

He said that agents were made to write their questions to the witnesses, instead of asking them face-to-face.

“NBI naman ang gustong magtanong. Bakit tini-treat ang NBI na parang sila ang gumawa ng kasalanan dito?” Aguirre added.

Some of the witnesses in the cases are minors.

Aguirre's text message

The word war between Aguirre and Hontiveros continues as the senator revealed that  a member of the press “inadvertently captured a text message exchange on the screen of the phone of Aguirre."

Aguirre, for his part, cried that Hontiveros committed intrusion of his privacy. He also said that he will file criminal, civil, and ethical complaints against the senator.

The Justice chief, however, has not made any denial or confirmation of the content of the captured text messages exchanges with a certain “Cong. Jing.” Aguirre was said to be ordering the latter to hasten the case build-up against Hontiveros.

The DOJ has started its preliminary investigation probe on the murder and torture complaints filed by Kian’s parents and the NBI against Caloocan cops Police Chief Inspector Amor Cerillo, Police Officer 3 (PO3) Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Tolete Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Roque Cruz.

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