CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 14 April 2018

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Philippine bishops welcome resignation of justice secretary

MANILA (UCAN): “He was a secretary of injustice,” Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said, in the wake of the resignation of Vitaliano Aguirre II, the justice secretary of the Philippines, which was announced by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, on April 5, amid questions over his job performance.
 
Bishop Bastes said he was “happy Aguirre decided to resign” because he “was not doing his job well as a secretary of justice.”
 
In March, prosecutors under Aguirre dismissed drug offence-related charges Cebu-based businessman, Peter Lim; self-confessed drug distributor, Kerwin Espinosa, and several others.
 
The bishop said the exoneration of the drug lord was a sign of Aguirre’s “bias for the rich and powerful even if they were criminals.”
 
Bishop Bastes said the dismissal of the charges against the drug dealers “encouraged drug lords to continue their criminal activities and the proliferation of extra judicial killings and murders.” 
 
Early in his presidency, Duterte threatened to go after all drug dealers in the country in his bloody, total war against illegal drugs.
 
However, the dismissal of charges against an alleged big-time drug lord has raised doubts about the legitimacy and sincerity of the government’s war on drugs.
 
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, also welcomed Aguirre’s resignation.
 
“Thanks be to God that he resigned. He was so erratic as secretary in his sense of justice. The decision is good for him and the country,” he said.
 
Human rights groups claim about 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users, mostly from urban poor communities, have been killed in the president’s anti-narcotics war.
 
Opposition legislators agreed with the bishops. However, one senator, Risa Hontiveros, said Aguirre’s resignation came too late. “The damage is done.” 
 
Hontiveros said, adding that the former minister had turned the Justice Department into “a manufacturer of fake legal cases to harass the opposition.”
 
The bishops expressed hope that the new justice secretary would do better and “serve the cause of justice.”
 
The president has announced that a lawyer, Menardo Guevarra, the president’s senior deputy executive secretary, is to replace Aguirre.

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