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Aguirre to quit if Duterte has lost trust in him

Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II said yesterday he would step down from his post if President Duterte has lost his trust and confidence in him over the P50-million extortion scandal in the Bureau of Immigration.

“I have no problem in resigning or being out of the government. If the President loses even a single bit of trust and confidence in me, I will not insist on clinging on to this position,” Aguirre said. “I will not lose a single night sleep if I lose this position,” he added.

The BI is an attached agency of the Department of Justice.

Aguirre said he has not done any wrong in handling the illegal casino operations of Macau-based gaming tycoon Jack Lam at the Fontana Leisure Park in Pampanga.

The Justice Secretary himself led the raid on Lam’s casino in Fontana where 1,316 Chinese nationals were arrested last November 24. He had also exposed the attempt of Lam’s group to bribe government officials in connection with his casino operation.

Aguirre had recommended, and the President had approved, the dismissal from the government of BI Deputy Commissioners A. Argosino and Michael Robles who were linked to the extortion controversy.

Argosino and Robles were the President’s fraternity brothers at the San Beda College of Law and who also helped in the presidential campaign.

“It’s (the dismissal of Argosino and Robles) a good development. It’s a reiteration of his stand and campaign against corruption,” Aguirre said.

Before the President’s announcement of the dismissal of Argosino and Robles, the two had already tendered their resignations.

Aguirre had earlier dismissed BI intelligence division chief Charles Calima Jr. and technical assistant for intelligence Edward Chan, who were also implicated in the extortion controversy.

The National Bureau of Investigation has been ordered to probe deeper into the extortion controversy at the BI.

Aguirre said he will purse actions against corruption in the DoJ and its attached agencies relentlessly. “To the extent that I could, I would like to make further actions against corruption because that’s one of the major orders of the President when he appointed me here,” he said.

He said he will form an inter-agency task force compose of units from various law enforcement agencies to pursue his anti-corruption drive. The members of the task force will come from the Philippine National Police, the DoJ, NBI, and BI.

There are many syndicates in the BI and also in the NBI, he said. “Here in the DoJ, there could be corrupt officials but I believe there are much more honest ones. If we are to fight corruption, we have to start from our own backyards,” Aguirre said. (REY G. PANALIGAN)