Obstruction of justice of the highest kind.
What happened in the main office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) the night after President Rodrigo Duterte accepted the resignation of Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre?
There was pandemonium in Padre Faura in the evening of April 5, 2018.
Apparently, the officials brought by Aguirre in the agency who are mostly his brods from the Lex Talionis fraternity were not expecting his sudden resignation from office.
While tenured officials like the senior state prosecutors who have built their respective careers after decades of government service were silently celebrating Aguirre’s departure from the DOJ, the others including the undersecretaries were reported to be in a state of panic and confusion.
As a tradition, the DOJ head is given the discretion to refer his own undersecretaries for the consideration of the appointing authority who is the president. Thus, when Aguirre was named as DOJ secretary in June 2016, he brought along his brods as his undersecretaries and assistant secretaries such as Reynante Orceo, Raymund Mecate, Deo Marco, Antonio Kho and Erickson Balmes.
Now that a new DOJ secretary has been appointed, the above-named officials, as well as other non-career officials and employees without security of tenure, have no choice but to say goodbye to the agency which they, according to a veteran prosecutor, have treated as if the office was their own private law firm.
Thinking that their boss is indispensable to the administration of President Duterte who happens to be a member of Lex Talionis too, they were caught off guard with how abrupt their hold to power have ended.
But the panic created the day Aguirre’s resignation was accepted was not really about losing one’s work. As lawyers, and with powerful connections at that, these former DOJ officials can surely find a new job.
The former officials, most of them part of Aguirre’s circle of trust, have a different concern. That is if information from sources within the agency are to be believed.
Aside from the confusing and disorderly atmosphere brought about by the untimely bowing out of Aguirre from the DOJ, an insider told us that employees noticed some suspicious activities inside the office of at least two undersecretaries.
Particularly, according to grapevine, several documents were destroyed using shredding machines right inside the office of Aguirre’s most trusted men. The shredding of documents lasted in the late evening of that day where people came in and out of the said offices.
The scuttlebutt within the DOJ is that the documents disposed were personal communications and internal memos between and among the highest officials including Aguirre, his undersecretaries and few chosen state prosecutors about high profile cases to which the administration has a vested interest.
Why is there a need to destroy these documents? Will the said documents show paper trail of how the department utilized its power, influence and resources in order to fabricate cases against political opponents and to distort the truth and circumvent the law in order to protect their allies and friends?
We hope that the newly-appointed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra will conduct an honest-to-goodness probe of this alleged shredding and destruction of vital documents right inside the premises of his department.
Guevarra’s appointment has been commended by many like detained senator Leila de Lima who claimed that Duterte’s latest appointments which include the new DOJ head are men of honor, competence, and integrity.
Guevarra should prove that the accolades about his person are true. He should start on the right track and find the truth about the supposed commission of obstruction of justice ironically by former officials who were entrusted with the responsibility of dispensing justice.