July 23, 2018, 3:08 pm
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Duterte replaces Aguirre: Senior Palace official is new DOJ chief

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday announced he has accepted the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

He did not give any reason for letting Aguirre go and did not say who will be Aguirre’s replacement. Later in the day, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra took his oath before Duterte as justice secretary.

Aguirre is the eighth member of Duterte’s Cabinet to leave since last year. His replacement came at a time of rampant media speculation he would be sacked over his performance.

“May I just also tell you now that I conferred with the officials. I accepted the resignation of Vit Aguirre, my fraternity brother, as secretary of justice,” he said at the “Gawad Saka” and “Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan” awarding ceremony in Malacañang yesterday afternoon.

Aguirre was in Malacañang Wednesday night for the 24th Cabinet meeting.

The President, before the Lenten break, said he might fire someone from his Cabinet. 

Duterte’s announcement of accepting Aguirre’s resignation came at a time of rampant media speculation he would be sacked over his performance. Rumors about Aguirre’s departure from the Cabinet went into overdrive in recent weeks after DOJ prosecutors, due to insufficient evidence, dropped charges against several drug lords, including Kerwin Espinosa, who had admitted involvement in the illegal drugs trade. Duterte has vowed to jail or kill what he calls “drug lords” as part of a bloody war on drugs.

Aguirre was also dragged in a controversy last year over an attempt to bribe two officials of the immigration bureau, which comes under his remit, and a proposal to make “pork barrel” scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles a state witness.

Guevarra, an alumnus of the Ateneo Law School, is a political science graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University. He also took up graduate studies in Economics at the University of the Philippines.

He first entered government as a staff economist at the National Economic and Development Authority and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. After finishing law, Guevarra served as a technical legal staff of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and later he joined a law firm in Makati and formed his own law partnership office in 1990.

He also taught law at the Ateneo School of Law and returned to government service in 2010 after being appointment as member of the Philippine Truth Commission and later as deputy executive secretary for legal affairs in May 2015.

Amid calls for the resignation or relief of National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President would stand by his Cabinet officials.

Asked if Duterte would also stand by Aquino, Roque said “he (Aquino) is not a member of the Cabinet.”

Roque said he is not aware if there are efforts to review Aquino’s performance.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who sits as the ex-officio chairman of the interagency NFA Council, on Wednesday slammed the NFA for creating an artificial rice shortage by making statements about the rice supply situation.

Evasco and Roque reiterated that there is no rice shortage in the country.

The President on Thursday night met rice traders in Malacañang to determine their concerns and the real situation about the reported supply shortage.

Aquino, in a statement, said the agency’s documents “are ready for scrutiny.”

The NFA Council is calling for an independent audit by the Commission of Audit of the agency’s operations.

Aquino said the NFA’s operations are transparent, and deplored accusations there are irregularities in its rice distribution activities as insinuated by some groups. – With Jed Macapagal and Reuters
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