Youth groups file ethics complaint vs. Justice Secretary for 'fake news'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — Two youth groups filed before the Ombudsman on Wednesday an ethics complaint against Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and sought his removal from office over accusations that he abetted so-called fake news.

Aguirre violated Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, the groups Akbayan Youth and Millennials Against Dictators said.

In the 13-page complaint, the groups said Aguirre was not able to fulfill his duty as a government official with "the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill" as stated in the code of ethics.

 

"'Fake News King' po ang tawag namin kay Vitaliano Aguirre dahil (pabrika) ng fake news ang Secretary of Justice natin," Shamah Bulangis, one of the complainants, said in an interview.

[Translation: We call  Vitaliano Aguirre  Fake News King because the Secretary of Justice is a factory of fake news.]

Bulangis said they want the Ombudsman to remove Aguirre from his post as Justice Secretary.

The complaint arose from two instances in June 2017 when Aguirre claimed Senators Bam Aquino, Antonio Trillanes, and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano had something to do with the crisis in Marawi City.

Aguirre showed a photo to the media of the supposed meeting of the officials in Marawi. However, the photo was taken in 2015 in Iloilo, and Aquino was not in the photo.

Read more: Justice Secretary tags opposition senators to Marawi crisis, Resorts World attack

Aguirre then denied showing the photo.

Read more: Aquino: 'Confused' Justice Secretary apologizes for 'irresponsible' claims

The second instance was when the Justice Secretary claimed that South Korean Embassy officials had been compromised by the Korean mafia, who were supposedly involved in the killing of Korean national Jee Ick Joo. The Philippine National Police refuted Aguirre's claims.

Bulangis added that all people who spread 'fake news' should be held accountable.

"I think first of all inuna namin si [we prioritized] Aguirre in virtue of him being Secretary of Justice," she said in a phone interview. "He has the utmost authority to spread truth."

"This government should not hire people who are constantly spreading misinformation to the Filipino citizens," she added.

Read more: ‘Public officials should be held accountable for fake news’ - sociologist

Last May 30, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson blasted critics of her Facebook post after she allegedly misrepresented Philippine troops on the field using a photograph of Honduran policemen.

Millennials Against Dictators convenor Karla Yu said Uson should be held to the same standard since she is a public official.

"If may welcome na gusto rin mag-file ng case sa kanya, we highly encourage that as well, we are not nitpicking here. We think that this move is to embolden the public. To actually take a stand on this issue," Yu said in an interview. 

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.