Guevarra vows to work hard as DOJ chief after getting CA nod

MANILA Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said he can now fully perform his mandate as head of the agency following his confirmation to the post by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday.

I can throttle up and go full speed at the Department of Justice, Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.

The CA grilled Guevarra on several issues surrounding the Department of Justice for more than an hour, before the panel went into a caucus to deliberate on his appointment.

I'm grateful to the CA for confirming my mandate, Guevarra added.

Guevarra replaced former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II who stepped down last April amid controversies hounding the DOJ.

Aguirre resigned after state prosecutors dropped charges against alleged top drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim.

Prior to his appointment as DOJ chief, Guevarra was senior deputy executive secretary.

In April, Guevarra's first major move at the DOJ directed all undersecretaries and assistant secretaries of the justice department to hand in their "unqualified" resignations.

The DOJ chief said he issued the order "in the exigency of service and in order to give the undersigned a free hand to perform the mandate given to him by the President."

Guevarra said President Rodrigo Duterte told 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

Guevara said until the President acts on the resignations, the DOJ officials "shall continue to report for work and perform their usual duties and responsibilities, subject to any modification that the undersigned may deem proper to adopt in the meantime."

Also in April, Guevarra denied the request of businessman Peter Lim to reinstate the previous resolution absolving him and others involved in the drug complaint and stop the investigation of a new panel of prosecutors into the illegal drugs case.

In a four-page resolution, Guevarra denied for lack of merit on Lim's motion filed April 6 which sought to uphold the December 20, 2017 resolution issued by a panel of prosecutors who dismissed the complaint due to weak evidence.

A previous DOJ panel of prosecutors issued the Dec. 20, 2017 resolution, dismissing the drug complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group's Major Crimes Investigation Unit against Lim and other alleged drug personalities, including self confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa.

Last week, the DOJ terminated the provisional coverage under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Guevarra has issued a letter to Napoles through her counsel, giving notice of the termination of her provisional coverage under the Witness Protection Security and Benefit Program (WPSBP), effective May 25.

Napoles was admitted to the program on Feb. 27, wherein the DOJ granted her security protection for witness duty only for a period not exceeding 90 days.

Napoles had requested to be admitted into the WPP of the DOJ due to alleged threats to her personal security, specifically requesting protection by way of transfer from her place of detention at Camp Bagong Diwa.

Also last week, Guevarra has extended the stay of Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox who was ordered to leave the country by the Bureau of Immigration to forfeit her missionary visa .over alleged political activities.

Guevarra ordered the BI to comment on the petition filed by Fox seeking a reversal of the April ruling.

The BI has 10 days to submit its comment while Fox would be given five days to reply upon receipt of the copy of the comment. Both deadlines are non-extendable.

Guevarra said the DOJ reserves the right to call such clarificatory hearings, as may be necessary, to arrive at a just resolution of this appeal.

Lastly, the DOJ Secretary has ordered preventive suspension for 60 days the three state prosecutors who allowed the release of three suspects who tried to smuggle some PHP6 million worth of jewelry into the country through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 last May 5.

The charges against the state prosecutors Benjamin Lonto, Florencio Dela Cruz Jr., and Clementine Villanueva stemmed from their decision to release NAIA Customs Operations Officer Lomonto Macabando, and alleged gold smugglers, spouses Abraham and Bang-sa Mimbalawang, who were charged for the seizure of 1.9 kilos of undeclared jewelry despite the presence of evidence against the suspects upon inquest proceedings.

Guevarra also asked the prosecutors to indicate in their answers whether they would prefer a formal hearing of their case.

The case was forwarded to the Internal Affairs Unit of the National Prosecution Service for investigation. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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