Guevarra starts work at DOJ, sets focus on drugs, terrorism cases

MANILA Newly-appointed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday will start working in his office at Department of Justice (DOJ) and will give special attention to cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism in compliance with President Rodrigo R. Duterte's instructions.

He (Duterte) just reminded me to put special focus on the prosecution of crimes on illegal drugs and terrorism, Guevarra told reporters during his visit to the DOJ on Tuesday afternoon.

Guevarra said that he would prioritize the review of the controversial drug case involving Cebu businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and the decision of his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre II, to place alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles under provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

I would have to review the past actions of the DOJ. More of the recent things give focus on these matters. I am not prejudging (but)the first thing I will look at facts presented without premature conclusion (and) I would not be bothered by public sentiment he told reporters.

Guevarra also said that the President told to him to remove from the Department those who are generally perceived and backed up by evidence to be engaged in wrongdoings.

He gave me a free hand to replace people, to bring his honor to the Department of Justice, he said.

First order of business to familiarize myself with the various functions of the DOJ as a lawyer. I know that I need to know the nitty gritty of the DOJ. Basically to know the key people here. To determine for myself if there is a need to make new recruits, to introduce new people to help me out in the DOJ. so basically organizational muna, he noted.

Like any person who is new into the job I would like to have people in my confidence, but I want continuity. I don't want abrupt. I have a lot of respect with people who have been here some time even those under the previous and present organization, he added.

Guevarra said the President would not intervene in his way of performing his duties.

He (Duterte) expressly stated he would not interfere in any way in the discharge of my functions as secretary of justice, he recalled.

He added even relatives or those close to President Duterte would be disappointed when they ask for any kind of favors from him.

Sabi niya 'pag meron lumapit sa akin na kamag-anak niya asking for any favor (The President said if any relatives approached asking for favors), consider it denied, Guevarra said.

I can do what I need to do for as long as I follow the rule of law," he added.

Guevarra, who served as Deputy Executive Secretary both in the Aquino and Duterte administrations, was appointed as DOJ chief following Vitaliano Aguirre's resignation last week.

Politics is not within the jurisdiction of the DOJ. DOJ is administration of criminal justice. Kaya (that's why) blindfolded lady justice. Political consideration (is) definitely out of the question. I just want you to know I never asked for any of these positions. I was recruited, I was requested to assist and as a lawyer I did my job as a professional. I don't have any politial membership in any groupings, he explained.

Guevarra admitted he was surprised that he was chosen by the President to become Justice Secretary.

I'm surprised really to a certain extent that the president chose me among so many people who are connected with him because I also served in the previous administration in my capacity as deputy executive secretary for legal affairs, he stated.

I guess the President has his own way of determining whether a person is suitable for a particular job or not. To his credit he does not mind appointing people who do not belong to the same political group. He keeps an open mind about this, he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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