Aguirre now prober of evil
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was berating prosecutors in the impeachment trial of the late former chief justice Renato Corona in February 2012, a member of the prosecution team caught her ire.

Private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre II covered his ears and closed his eyes to block what he called the senator’s “shrill voice” in order to “hear no evil.”

This image has since been identified with Aguirre, a litigation expert tapped by President Duterte to head the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On his first day in office on June 30, Aguirre met with DOJ reporters and gamely posed for a photo with his trademark “hear no evil” gesture.

Aguirre has been open about his close relationship with Duterte.

They are close friends, batchmates in San Beda College law school and fraternity brothers in Lex Talionis, along with Supreme Court Justices Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza.

Aguirre has lawyered for Duterte in several cases involving the former Davao City mayor and also served as his chief legal counsel in the presidential campaign where they faced disqualification cases before the Commission on Elections.

“We’ve been together for so many years already. I believe in his causes and sincerity to serve our people, that’s why I wanted to help in the success of his administration,” he told The STAR. 

Aguirre was so supportive of his “brod” to the extent of spending his own money to help in answering legal challenges during the campaign, citing the modest campaign fund of Duterte.

For many years, Aguirre has served as lawyer of Duterte – especially in charges linking the long-time mayor of Davao City to the Davao death squad.

He has defended Duterte from cases filed by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) under then chair Leila de Lima, who later became secretary of justice and is now a senator.

Aguirre recalled lawyering for the President in 2008 when charges involving the Davao death squad were filed by the CHR.

“There was no evidence ever found, only baseless allegations. That’s why there was never any case filed in court against him,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said the CHR even pointed to a supposed gravesite of victims of extrajudicial killings by the death squad, which turned out to be a gravesite for victims of atrocities during the Japanese occupation in the country during World War II.

He said the issue against Duterte was revived in the DOJ under De Lima last year, but there has been no development on the charges.

Posting

Aguirre recalled how Duterte made his appointment as DOJ chief.

It was during a meeting with prospective appointees to other Cabinet posts last May 18. Duterte was discussing the problem of closure of investment firms and how the government needs to help investors get back their money.

“He said there is a need for many good lawyers in the DOJ for that purpose, and then he looked at me and said, “’Di ba Secretary Vit?” he recalled.

Aguirre said he shook the President’s hands and thanked him for the trust.

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