MANILA — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday shrugged off calls of running priest Father Robert Reyes for his resignation as head of the agency in connection with the case of policemen involved in the death of Grade 11 student Kian Loyd Delos Santos.
Sought for a comment, DOJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said while Aguirre respects Reyes’ opinion, he will continue to serve as the Justice chief as he still enjoys President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust and confidence.
“SoJ (Secretary of Justice) serves at the pleasure of the President, while SoJ respects the view of everyone to express themselves freely, he will stay for as long as he enjoys the trust and confidence of the President,” Balmes told reporters covering the DOJ.
In a letter filed at the DOJ on Tuesday, Reyes and some student leaders urged the Justice Secretary to inhibit from handling the murder and torture complaint filed against the police officers, citing he is allegedly biased on the case.
The group particularly called out Aguirre for his pronouncements stating Kian’s case was “blown out of proportion” by the media and that no one is condemning drug-related killings but only deaths caused by police officers.
Signatories to the letter include Karla Yu, convenor of the Millenials Against Dictators; Amber Quiban, national secretary general of the University of the Philippines Bukluran System; Jeza Antonette Rodriguez, OIC national secretary general, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines; and Moira Macainag, Director for Social and Human Sciences of the PLM UNESCO Club.
Aguirre earlier dismissed such claims, saying the students leaders are unfamiliar with the procedures at the agency.
“These so-called student leaders are misinformed or ignorant of our procedures at the DOJ. I will not even touch that case. I have not myself resolved even a single case in the DOJ since I assumed office. At the moment, the prosecutors at the National Prosecution Service will handle it. Even on appeal, I will not handle the case. The cases on appeal are assigned to my five USecs. They will not be brought to me for any action before filing in court, or their dismissal,” Aguirre said.
In a related development, Kian’s parents — Saldy and Lorenza Delos Santos — accompanied by Aguirre, Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman Dante Jimenez met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on Monday.
Aguirre said President Duterte instructed him to prosecute the people involved in the case.
He then reiterated his offer to the witnesses and the Delos Santos family for coverage in the WPP after they reportedly received death threats.
The WPP is administered by the DOJ.
Last Friday, Kian’s parents accompanied by Acosta, filed criminal charges against four police officers before the DOJ.
Violations of the Revised Penal Code for murder, and Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law, were filed against Caloocan City Station 7 chief, Insp. Amor Cerillo, PO3 Arnel Oares; PO1 Jeremiah Pereda, PO1 Jerwin Cruz, and several “John Does.”
The four were already relieved from their posts and placed under restrictive custody.