A group of student leaders and law students, joined by ‘Running Priest’ Father Robert Reyes urged Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II in a press conference on August 28, to inhibit himself from Kian Delos Santos’ case.
The group said that Aguirre has ‘lost all credibility’ to hear the case following his one-sided statements during the DOJ budget hearing. They are supporting the Office of the Ombudsman to handle the investigation of Delos Santos instead.
Kathleen Benavidez of the University of the Philippines (UP) Law School, said that calling Delos Santos’ death ‘overblown’ and the witnesses ‘brainwashed’ proves that the Justice Secretary ‘already made up his mind.’
The law students said that through Aguirre’s statements, he has violated the following provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility of Filipino Lawyers, in many occasions, in response to the slay case of Delos Santos:
Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
Rule 3.01 – A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services.
Rule 8.01 – A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.
“This not only sets a bad example to aspiring lawyers but it actually erodes the public’s trust in our justice system. It is to the satisfaction of justice that Aguirre would not intervene in the investigations and the proceedings, and just let justice run its due course” Benavidez added.
Jeza Rodriguez Officer-in-Charge Secretary General of Student Council Alliance of the Philippines said, “Officials who cannot be trusted to tell the truth cannot be trusted to provide a fair investigation.”
The students furthered by citing the record of Aguirre’s ‘whitewashing’ of police brutality, in the killing of Albuera Mayor Espinosa’s case in which 19 cops were accused of murder and was downgraded to a bailable offense of homicide.
They also called on Aguirre to stop insisting on taking custody of the Delos Santos’ case’s witnesses into the Witness Protection Program.
“It is our view that the DOJ Secretary’s initiative to secure the witnesses to the case of Kian de los Santos is detrimental to having a thorough and impartial investigation of the case,” Benavidez said.
“Aguirre is desperate to protect the cops like he has done before during Espinosa’s case,” Amber Quiban of Bukluran UP System said. “He has no interest to protect the witnesses so he should stop insisting on taking them in as well,” she added.
The group made up of students from UP, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Manila, and De La Salle College Antipolo, will file a petition in DOJ urging Aguirre to inhibit from the case on Tuesday.
On Wednesday during the DOJ budget hearing, Aguirre said that Delos Santos’ death is part of the casualties expected when there is a war.
“Blown out of proportion in the media [ito] kaya akala mo napakalaki na. Isa lang siya sa thousands na pang-aabuso ng pulis kung talagang may pang-aabuso (This is blown out of proportion in the media that is why it looks big. He is only one of the thousands that were abused by the police if there is really abuse).”
While in the Senate inquiry on Thursday, he said “If these witnesses, especially they are children, two of them –13 and 16 years old — are put under the custody of an individual especially if these individual’s fairness is in question, the credibility of these witnesses is bound to go down because we could never avoid the suspicion that they might have been brainwashed.”