Senator calls on Justice Secretary to step down amid threat of cases

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Updated to include statement from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — A senator called on the Justice Secretary to resign as she alleged that the Secretary is plotting to file cases against her.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, in a privilege speech on Monday, said she got hold of a text exchange between Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and a certain "Cong. Jing." She presumed him to be former Negros Oriental Representative Jacinto "Jing" Paras, a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

Based on the text message, Paras allegedly told Aguirre: "Naturuan na ni Hontiveros ang testigo (Hontiveros has already taught the witness). Her questions are leading questions."

The Justice Secretary replied, "'Yan nga sinasabi ko dito (This was what I was talking about). Very obvious. Kaya nga expedite natin ang cases ninyo versus her (This is why we need to expedite your case against her)."

The photo of the text exchange was caught by a member of the audience during the September 5 hearing on the killing of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos, where Aguirre was one of the resource speakers.

READ: Witness identifies two Caloocan cops in Kian slay

Paras, along with VACC legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio, previously went to Hontiveros to get the two underaged witnesses in Kian's case from her custody.

The VACC is a known ally of Aguirre.

Hontiveros, a vocal critic of the war on drugs and longtime human rights advocate, cited Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

"Hindi na bago sa atin ang kapalpakan ng secretary of Justice (His mistakes are not new to us)," Hontiveros said, enumerating Aguirre's blunders.

"Hindi ba siya din ang nagkalat, nung kasagsagan ng pagbomba sa Marawi, na si Senator Bam ang Senator Trillanes ay nagpunta sa Marawi at nakipagpulong sa mga sangkot sa siege? Hindi ba upisina niya ang nagdowngrade ng kaso ng mga pulis na pumaslang kay Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa? Hindi ba siya ang nakipagkita kay Jack Lam sa isang hotel sa The Fort, bagamat si Jack Lam ay may mga hinaharap na kasong nakahain at iniimbestigahan?"

[Translation: In the midst of the Marawi crisis, wasn't he the one who told everyone that Senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes went to Marawi to meet with people who were part of the siege? Isn't it his office who downgraded the charges against policemen who killed Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa? Isn't he the one who met with Jack lam in a hotel in The Fort, despite knowing Lam has pending cases in court?]

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also called out Aguirre for the same offenses.

"He's been burned time and again, but this one would really take the cake, because it goes against the heart of his job as Secretary of Justice," said Trillanes.

The senator also agreed with Hontiveros' call for Aguirre to step down.

He added that he was waiting for a resolution from Hontiveros on the matter, which could go through the senate's Civil Service Committee chaired by Trillanes.

"It might go through my committee, so I'm going to investigate him," said Trillanes.

Aguirre has yet to respond to Hontiveros' allegation.

CNN Philippines' Yvette Morales, Regine Cabato, and Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.