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Umali shoots down speculation he is next justice secretary

In an interview on DZMM, Umali called the possibility that he would replace Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III, who is expected to run for senator in the 2019 midterm elections, a “product of fake news. The STAR/Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Reynaldo Umali (Oriental Mindoro), chair of the House committee on justice, on Thursday denied that he is being eyed to lead the Department of Justice.

In an interview on DZMM, Umali said speculation that he might replace Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III, who is expected to run for senator in the 2019 midterm elections, is a “product of fake news.”

“Wala pong ganyang napag-uusapan at wala akong kamalay-malay sa mga ganyan (There has been no talk about it and I have no knowledge of it),” he said.

Umali, who heads the House panel hearing impeachment charges against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, said he still has a lot of work to do in his committee.

“I want to focus on the committee on justice and the constituent assembly,” he said, referring to moves to replace the 1987 Constitution as part of a shift to a federal form of government.

READOriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali next justice secretary?

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The group Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment believes the possible appointment of Umali is a reward for the looming impeachment of Sereno.

PAGE conveyor Bencyrus Ellorin said the lawmaker has been trying hard to justify the hearing of the “intrinsically weak and baseless” impeachment complaint against the chief justice filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.

The House panel will resume the hearing this month. 

In the same interview, Umali, who was a prosecutor in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, said the House has learned its lessons from that trial. The impeachment complaint against Corona in 2011 was forwarded to the Senate for trial without undergoing hearings at the House because there were enough signatures to transmit the article of impeachment directly.

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