Hontiveros posts bail in wiretapping case over ex-SOJ Aguirre's text messages

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Hontiveros posts bail in wiretapping case over ex-SOJ Aguirre's text messages
Sen. Risa Hontiveros on December 28, 2022, posts bail before the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 46 in relation to a criminal case filed against her by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.
Released / Office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines — Reelectionist Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday posted bail in a wiretapping case against her for reading text messages on former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre's mobile phone from photos and giving a privilege speech about them at the Senate.

Hontiveros played down the case against her as baseless and unjust. 

The senator paid a cash bond of P36,000 at the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 46, a document released by her office shows. The court recalled and set aside the warrant for her arrest dated December 27, Monday. 

This comes after she was indicted on a wiretapping case first filed by Aguirre in 2017 over her disclosure of a text exchange between him and former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras during a Senate hearing into the death of Kian delos Santos. 

The messages on Aguirre's phone were in a large font, allowing Hontiveros to glean the contents through media photos of the hearing. In the text messages, Aguirre appeared to be urging Paras to expedite legal action against the senator.

She called Aguirre out about this during a privilege speech delivered on the Senate floor.

Paras, who also filed a complaint against Hontiveros over the text messages, was named presidential legislative assistant in 2020 and presidential adviser for political affairs in July 2021. 

"The case filed against me by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre is meaningless and baseless," Hontiveros said in a statement delivered partially in Filipino before reporters. "I am determined to fight this harassment."

"The Constitution itself protects all aspects of my privilege speech in the Senate, so I am assured that I have not violated any Anti-Wiretapping Law."

RELATED: ‘Hontiveros can’t be charged over Aguirre’s text messages’

If anyone violated the law, Hontiveros added, that would be Aguirre, who she accused of conspiring against her while he was in the Senate. 

"If his text messages were set in fonts large enough to be caught on camera, then he has only himself to blame," she said. "He should have known better than to conspire with others in the middle of a public event, in full view of photographers ’cameras."

"There was no deception or subterfuge involved."

Paras is  a member of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, an organization that has filed complaints against those seen as opponents of the Duterte administraion. 

The VACC is behind the drug cases against detained Sen. Leila De Lima. The group also filed an impeachment rap against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.  

Several controversies hounded Aguirre's two-year tenure at the justice department.

In January, the Palace announced that he would be rejoining the Duterte administrationt as a commissioner of the National Police Commission, an agency with the power to probe irregularities and dismiss erring members of the national police force.

Hontiveros: Why devote public funds to 'sham' case? 

Hontiveros also asked why the case filed against her suddenly progressed after four years of inaction. 

"Why are government resources being devoted to this obviously baseless case, when we need every peso for rehabilitation and rescue efforts for victims of [T]yphoon Odette?" she added. 

Dismissing the charges as black propaganda by Aguirre and his allies, Hontiveros vowed that she would not cower before them nor let this latest development slide. 

"This entire case is unfair, unjust, and a sham." 

The senator's arraignment and the pre-trial conference is set for January 21, 2022.

Hontiveros, a member of the Senate minority, is no stranger to having complaints filed against her for her participation in Senate hearings into government policies and programs.

Last month, the Duterte administration's favored pandemic supplier, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., filed several cases against the senator, accusing her of conspiring to commit sedition, subornation of perjury, offering false evidence, and violating the norms of conduct of public officials.

The firm's allegedly anomalous contracts with the government have been the subject of a high-profile Senate inquiry for several months. 

READ: ‘Laughable, last-ditch effort’: Hontiveros denies charges filed by Pharmally employee

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