President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as the new head of the National Police Commission on Monday prompting Filipinos to remember the latter’s controversial cases.
“We confirm that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has signed the appointment of Mr. Vitaliano ‘Vit’ Aguirre II as Commissioner of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) representing the private sector,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Monday evening.
Roque added that Aguirre’s experience as a justice secretary from 2016 to 2018 “bodes well in his new position to make the police service competent, effective, credible, and responsive to our people’s needs.”
Aguirre, meanwhile, thanked Duterte for choosing him for and for entrusting him to make Napolcom “better,” along with Interior Secretary and Napolcom chairperson Eduardo Año and other members of the commission.
“My appointment to the Napolcom carries with it the challenge to address the concerns and the stumbling blocks toward a better police force that will serve and will protect our countrymen,” Aguirre said.
“Our countrymen have my solemn assurance that all my God-given talent, time, effort, and sacred honor will be invested toward this effort. Thank you, Mr. President,” he added.
Duterte and Aguirre were fraternity brothers in the Lex Talionis Fraternity of the San Beda College of Law.
Napolcom is a body established under Republic Act 8551 or the “PNP Reform and Organization Act Of 1998″ comprising an ex-officio chairperson and four commissioners.
It has the mandate to administer and control the PNP including “administration of police entrance examinations, the conduct of pre-charge investigation of police anomalies and irregularities, and summary dismissal of erring police officers.”
Aguirre’s past cases
Aguirre’s return to the government raised some eyebrows, citing his controversies back when he was still leading the Department of Justice.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism likewise echoed and noted that this happened at a time when the Philippine National Police is in hot water over past alleged killings.
“History isn’t encouraging – but we hope this will change, especially now that the police force is rocked by succeeding scandals,” it noted.
With Aguirre back in Duterte's good graces, will transparency and accountability be included in his agenda in Napolcom?
History isn't encouraging – but we hope this will change, especially now that the police force is rocked by succeeding scandals.https://t.co/TEmUCmCDqD
— PCIJ (@PCIJdotOrg) January 12, 2021
In 2016, during Aguirre’s first year as DOJ secretary, two commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration, an attached agency of the DOJ, were accused of extorting P50 million from gaming tycoon Jack Lam. The Office of the Ombudsman later charged the commissioners with plunder.
In 2017, the Office of the Justice Secretary downgraded the charges to those involved in the killing of inmates Rolando Espinosa and Raul Yap from murder to homicide.
It was also on the same year when Sen. Leila de Lima, Aguirre’s predecessor and Duterte’s vocal critic was detained.
Following Aguirre’s re-hire, his predecessor De Lima tweeted: “Duterte should appoint himself to the National Solid Waste Management Commission. Magaling talaga siya mag recycle ng basura. #ZeroWaste.”
Duterte should appoint himself to the National Solid Waste Management Commission. Magaling talaga siya mag recycle ng basura. #ZeroWaste
— Leila de Lima (@SenLeiladeLima) January 12, 2021
In 2018, DOJ prosecutors dismissed the charges against drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa, Rolando’s son, and Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim due to weak evidence.
Their resolution was the one that angered Duterte who berated Aguirre for allegedly mishandling the case.
This eventually led to the latter’s resignation that year.
In 2020, columnist Ramon Tulfo accused Aguirre of being the “protector” and “godfather” of the multi-billion peso “pastillas” scheme at the Bureau of Immigration during the Senate committee investigation into this racket.
Other Filipinos also denounced this as another instance of Duterte’s record of “recycling” officials.
Throughout his presidency, Duterte had been reappointing high-ranking officials whom he previously sacked due to corruption woes and involvement in anomalies.
Some prominent officials are:
- Nicanor Faeldon—occupied three key positions in the government since 2016 before Duterte fired him as chief of the Bureau of Corrections in 2019
- Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña—fired as Social Security System commissioner in 2017, reappointed as an undersecretary of the tourism department in 2018, and then assigned as administrator of the state-run Phividec Industrial Estate in September 2020
- Melissa Avanceña-Ardanas—sacked as Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor commissioner in 2017, reassigned as deputy secretary general of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in 2018 and then transferred her again as the assistant secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development