Menardo Guevarra replaces Vitaliano Aguirre as Justice Secretary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — Menardo Guevarra is the new Secretary of the Department of Justice.

Presidental Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed the news after President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that Vitaliano Aguirre resigned from the post.

Roque told CNN Philippines that Guevarra's appointment papers arrived after an event  in Malacañang.

 

He added Guevarra was chosen because he "has proven his competence as a lawyer and proven (his) integrity. The President said that he had chosen someone who is a person of integrity for one of the most sensitive departments."

In a separate interview on CNN Philippines Newsroom, Guevarra said he was informed about taking on the Secretary of Justice by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go just two days ago.

"SAP Bong Go informed me that the President wanted me to take Department of Justice portfolio," he said.

 

Guevarra said he was only formally informed of it Thursday.

He said, "I was quite surprised because I was quite happy with what I was doing at the Office of the President and assisting the Executive Secretary, but that's how things turn out."

He added the President only gave him the instruction: do what is right.

When asked about what his priorities for the DOJ would be, Guevarra said, "Housecleaning is one. Because the President also instructed me to restore the Department to what it was before. A very dignified Department of Justice."

He added he was not able to speak with Aguirre before his appointment as Justice Secretary.

Not the first to resign

Aguirre's resignation came amid speculations that Duterte wanted him out of the Cabinet following a decision by the Department of Justice to drop the charges against alleged drug lord Peter Lim and self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday revealed that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre is out of his Cabinet.

"I accepted the resignation of Vit Aguirre, my fraternity brother, as Secretary of Justice," Duterte said in a speech.

Aguirre is the fourth official to quit the Duterte cabinet, after Information and Communications Technology Chief Rodolfo Salalima, National Irrigation Authority chief Peter Laviña, and Vice President Leni Robredo - who chaired the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council before her resignation in December 2016.

Earlier, Aguirre said he had no reason to leave his post since he did nothing wrong, but should he feel distrusted by the President, he would do so.

"If the President says so, o nakaramdam ako na kulang na ang pagtitiwala sa akin, mabilis pa sa alas-kwatro, resign tayo,'" he said.

[Translation: If I feel that the President has lost confidence in me, I would resign right away.]

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte earlier expressed his unhappiness with his Cabinet members, and hinted at a possible reshuffling.

The Department of Justice recently drew criticism for several controversial decisions, including the P50-million bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration and the possible admission of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Naples to the Witness Protection Program.