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Palace defends Aguirre’s appointment as Napolcom commissioner

MJ Blancaflor

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Malacañang on Tuesday brushed off Senator Leila De Lima’s remark that President Rodrigo Duterte is very good at “recycling trash” after designating ex-Justice Secretary Vitaliano “Vit” Aguirre II as commissioner of the National Police Commission (Napolcom).

In his televised briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended Duterte’s decision to reappoint Aguirre in the administration and told De Lima to wait for her turn to become president so she can pick her own officials.

“Let’s just say that appointment is an exclusive prerogative of the president. Senator De Lima should wait for her turn to become president so she can appoint whoever she wants,” Roque said in a mix of English and vernacular.

The Palace official added that De Lima has an axe to grind against Aguirre, since she was jailed over drug charges when the latter was still chief of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Of course, Senator Leila De Lima is very angry at Secretary Aguirre because he was the Secretary of Justice when she faced charges,” Roque said.

His comment came after De Lima mocked Duterte for picking Aguirre to represent the private sector in Napolcom, which has the authority to investigate police anomalies and irregularities and to dismiss erring police officers.

“Duterte should appoint himself to the National Solid Waste Management Commission. He is really good at recycling trash. #zeroWaste,” De Lima, also a former Justice secretary, said in a statement.

The lawmaker has sued Aguirre in previous years for allegedly using convicted criminals as state witnesses in her illegal drug case and for alleged failure to investigate and prosecute more than 7,000 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.

Aguirre then refuted her accusations, saying he has nothing to hide and he can clear his name.

The Palace on Monday announced that Duterte picked his Law school classmate and frat mate Aguirre to represent the private sector in Napolcom, paving the way for the latter’s return to the administration after his resignation as DOJ chief in 2018.

Aguirre stepped down as Justice chief after a string of controversies, the most prominent of which was clearing drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim of drug charges.

Amid Duterte expressed his displeasure over the matter, Aguirre ordered a new investigation into Espinosa and Lim’s drug case, leaving it “wide open” for new evidence and testimonies.

He was also implicated in the P50-million bribery scandal involving resigned Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.

Aguirre’s role in the anomalous scheme was scrutinized after it was revealed that he agreed to meet with some individuals at a hotel to discuss the arrest of over 1,000 of Chinese employees from the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.

During his stint at the DOJ, he also dismissed charges of Bohol Board Member Rey Niño Boniel who was charged with parricide for killing his wife, Bien-Unido Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel.

Following public backlash, Aguirre overturned his prosecutors’ dismissal in a resolution he signed himself.

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