February 20, 2018, 10:16 am
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Aguirre mulls ethics complaint vs Hontiveros

JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday said he is mulling the filing of an ethics complaint against Sen. Risa Hontiveros, aside from criminal and civil cases, for disclosing to the public his personal text messages with a certain “Cong Jing” that the latter identified as former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras.

Aguirre did not confirm or deny the authenticity of the text messages that Hontiveros said showed the justice secretary plotting with Paras to file cases against her.

Aguirre, in a radio interview, insisted that Hontiveros violated his right to privacy when she showed to the public the contents of the text messages.

He said he would file the criminal and civil cases against Hontiveros before the Office of the Ombudsman and the civil court, respectively, though he explained that an ethics complaint is an immediate recourse since criminal and civil cases would take time.

Aguirre also belittled the call of minority senators for his resignation as he taunted them for what he described as their ‘flip-flopping” stance on their support for Hontiveros’ call for his resignation.

“I am surprised since it seems that the minority bloc can’t get their act together. First, they go with Sen. Hontiveros in asking the DOJ Secretary to resign and then, they took it back. And after their meeting, they reinstated their call for me to resign,” Aguirre said.

Aside from Hontiveros, the minority senators are Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Benigno Paolo Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, and Antonio Trillanes IV.

For his part, President Duterte on advised Hontiveros to refrain from speculating about the conversations of other people to avoid drawing unnecessary and wrong conclusions.

“That is a very naive. You --- you… Ayaw ko lang anuhin si Hontiveros. When two persons talk and you are not a party to it, do not draw conclusions of what they are talking about. For all you know, ang pinag-usapan ng mga g***, babae. (That is a very naive. You --- you… I just don’t want to comment on Hontiveros. When two persons talk and you are not a party to it, do not draw conclusions of what they are talking about. For all you know, those fools could only be talking about girls),” he said.

Hontiveros said Aguirre, by skirting the issue with long statements and “convoluted legal arguments,” only confirmed the authenticity of his text conversation with Paras.

She said Aguirre’s accusations that Hontiveros violated his right to privacy and the Anti-Wiretapping Law may be an admission that the text messages are real.

“The Justice Secretary accuses me of indecency and being unethical. There is nothing more indecent and unethical than being caught red-handed plotting against a senator during a Senate hearing inside the Senate,” Hontiveros said.

She denied violating Aguirre’s right to privacy, saying there was no intent to wiretap or intercept his text messages to Paras.

“The law is clear. What is prohibited is willfully and knowingly committing any acts constituting wiretapping,” she said.

She also said what happened “can simply be likened to overhearing a conversation by a careless person talking loudly in public. In this case, it was a text conversation, which was inadvertently caught by someone’s camera lens.”

She said Aguirre could not proclaim himself “protector” of the right to privacy “when he wantonly disregarded this when he unnecessarily made public Sen. Leila de Lima’s personal life and even threatened to show her fake sex videos.”

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said Hontiveros did not violate the Anti-Wiretapping Law and her speech was covered by parliamentary immunity.

Drilon said: “Since the photo was inadvertently taken, it cannot be considered as surveillance.” 

He said the incident happened in the Senate Session Hall, which is a public space, of which photographers are a regular fixture.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the rules committee, referred Hontiveros’ speech to the committee on public order and illegal drugs, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, to prevent another clash between Sens. Antonio Trillanes IV and Richard Gordon. 

Hontiveros, following the delivery of her speech last Monday, sought to have it referred to the committee on civil service, which is chaired by Trillanes, and to the committee on constitutional amendments and codes under Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

“I had a sleepless night last Monday because I promised to report this the following day. It’s a good thing that the storm gave me a reprieve. Now I have to be very candid about this,” Sotto said on the floor. 

He said referring the speech to Lacson’s committee is a good Solomonic decision, as Lacson “has always been impartial and known for his neutrality.” – With JP Lopez and Jocelyn Montemayor
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