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De Lima hits Aguirre for filing case vs Hontiveros in an office under him

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday filed a wiretapping case against Sen. Risa Hontiveros at Pasay City Prosecutor's Office—an office under his jurisdiction as justice chief. EDD GUMBAN  

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday criticized Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for filing a wiretapping case against Sen. Risa Hontiveros in an office under his jurisdiction.

Aguirre on Monday morning went to the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office to file three counts of violation of Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law against Hontiveros.

De Lima said Aguirre’s move showed "the extent of the perversion of the justice system under the Duterte regime."

"The public prosecutor as hearing officer in the preliminary investigation of the criminal complaint is under the direct control and supervision of Aguirre as Secretary of Justice. In a true sense, Aguirre will be the judge of his own accusation against Sen. Hontiveros. This is justice now in the Philippines, Aguirre-style," De Lima said.

The justice chief earlier assured that the case against Hontiveros would be treated fairly, despite the Pasay City Prosecutor's Office being under the Department of Justice.

"It is the law that determines jurisdiction,” Aguirre said. “What I could say is that the DOJ will treat these cases fairly and with justice so [she] has nothing to fear."

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As Aguirre's argument goes, Hontiveros may have exposed the text message as a private citizen and not as a public official, which warrants the complaint before a DOJ body and not before the Office of the Ombudsman.

READ: Accusing the accuser: Aguirre's complaint vs Hontiveros

'Aguirre is not the victim'

The justice chief cried foul when Hontiveros revealed a photo of a text message exchange between Aguirre and a certain "Cong. Jing," believed to be former Rep. Jing Paras, saying his right to privacy was violated.

In the photo shown by Hontiveros, a message to Aguirre reads: "Naturuan na ni Hontiveros yung testigo. Her questions are leading questions."

To which Aguirre replied: "Yon nga sinasabi ko kanina dito. Very obvious. Kaya expedite natin ang cases ninyo vs. her."

"Text messages are private communications. Any unauthorized intrusion into such exchanges is illegal and betrays the Constitution," Aguirre lamented.

But for the former Justice secretary, Aguirre's right to privacy does not extend to the cover-up of criminal conduct.

"Aguirre is not the victim here. He is the willing participant in a criminal enterprise. He is the principal by direct participation in the malicious persecution of Sen. Hontiveros by using all the power and influence of his official position as the Secretary of Justice," De Lima said.

She also noted that Aguirre should be criminally charged before the ombudsman for giving "unwarranted advantage and preference to Paras" through the text message.

Aguirre has yet to confirm or deny making orders to Paras.

Anti-Wiretapping Law                                                                            

She also noted that Hontiveros' action to expose the text message is not covered by the Anti-Wiretapping Law.

"Conversations overheard without the use of devices but merely out of the carelessness and stupidity of the conversing parties, is not wiretapping," De Lima said.  

The 52-year-old Anti-Wiretapping Law holds punishable secretly overhearing, intercepting or recording communication using a "dictaphone or dictagraph or detectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder."

Aguirre claimed that the neophyte senator intended to "maliciously use" the photo against him.

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