Justice Secretary Guevarra out to restore DOJ's respect and dignity

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 16) — Newly-appointed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra wants  to bring back the glory days of the Department of Justice (DOJ) which, he said, was suffering from an "image problem."

"I hate to say that our department is suffering from a huge image problem. The building stays the same, but somehow it is corroded inside. It looks solid, but its structural integrity is suspect, both literally and metaphorically," he said at his first flag-raising ceremony at the department on Monday.

Guevarra said he was ready to fix the problem, but asked for the help of DOJ employees to do this.

"It is my personal mission to restore the DOJ's dignified and respectable image. Can I do it? I cannot do it alone. I need you, all of you, to start an inner revolution of our values," he said.

Guevarra, President Rodrigo Duterte's former senior deputy executive secretary, replaced Vitaliano Aguirre II on April 5. Aguirre resigned amid controversies hounding the department.

The DOJ recently drew criticism over several controversial decisions, including the dismissal of charges against alleged drug lords Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa and the provisional admission of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to the Witness Protection Program.

Guevarra said that when he was appointed, Duterte reminded him to do only what is right.

"I have absolutely no agenda — political or otherwise. My only ambition is to do my job well. I make my decisions based on facts, my choices based on merit. Everything else based on the rule of law - with lots of compassion on the side," he said.

Guevarra, who served as Duterte's lawyer when the President was still Davao City mayor, admitted he was previously tapped as Justice Secretary but declined.

"So I guess the President trusted the man trusted by his right-hand man," he said, adding that he was the law firm partner of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for 30 years.

The new Justice Secretary said he would appoint a spokesperson.

"In my opinion, I should be the last person to talk about matters under investigation. Lest I be goaded to make imprudent and premature conclusions, and thereby compromise the entire DOJ position," he explained.