MANILA — The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) worth PHP17.276-billion after more than three hours of questioning from senators.
It can be recalled that on August 17, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon requested to defer the hearing to further discuss the preliminary report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on drug-related killings.
In the second budget hearing on DOJ’s proposed budget, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the NBI recorded approximately 7,080 drug-related killings but only 50 have been investigated.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, questioned Aguirre on several statements he has made, particularly on criticism against him and other senators and pronouncements tagged as “fake news.”
Trillanes, unconvinced with Aguirre’s replies, initially moved to defer the proposed 2018 budget hearing of the DOJ but withdrew his motion after Aguirre apologized for making claims where he was “mistaken.”
“Secretary Aguirre, I cited seven instances kung saan nauuna kayong mag-divulge ng very wrong information na di niyo vina-validate pero nung time na lumabas ‘yun very, very delicate yung situation (Secretary Aguirre, I cited seven instances where you divulged very wrong information which was not validated but the time it was released, the situation was very, very delicate),” Trillanes told Aguirre.
Among the seven instances Trillanes mentioned was when Aguirre previously insinuated that opposition lawmakers including Trillanes, Senator Benigno Paolo Aquino IV and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano met in Marawi City on May 2, 2017 with influential Moro clans, including the Lucmans and Alontos, prior to the attack of the Maute terrorist group.
Aguirre, however, explained that the information he revealed to the media in a press conference last June 7 was raw, noting that he wanted to verify and investigate further on the matter.
“At the end of the press conference, I told the media, I do not want to prejudge anybody because this has to be validated, this has to be investigated. Ang problema wala yungprecautionary statement ‘ko (The problem is my precautionary statement was missing). That’s why I said I was misquoted before,” Aguirre told Trillanes.
Senator Francis Escudero, although not present during the budget hearing, asked to either have the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) budget hearing deferred unless the agency submits a list of banks “where the PCGG monitored corporations.”
PCGG gave an assurance to submit the documents Escudero requested by Monday noon.
After a few more questions, the DOJ budget was finally approved. (PNA)