INJUSTICE SECRETARY

Photo courtesy of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)


SOME guys have all the luck.

Such is the case of incoming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II who despite his questionable background and record as a practicing lawyer was still chosen by newly proclaimed President Rodrigo R. Duterte as one of the members of his soon to be formed Cabinet.

PARTIALLY CORRECT

In his first media briefing after his formal proclamation, Duterte admitted he was having a hard time choosing his Cabinet members but he assured the nation that his nominees are ‘all men of honesty and integrity’.

Duterte is only partially correct in saying that his favored appointees are men of honesty and integrity, because not all of them are what he believed them to be especially concerning Aguirre, if the people of his hometown in Mulanay, Quezon are to be believed.

LAND GRABBER

Carlos Icaro Jr., president of Hacienda Tulungan Farmers and Settlers Association (HTFSA) and his members who all hail from Barangay Sta. Rosa, Mulanay, Quezon are accusing Aguirre and his family of grabbing the land that they are tilling and where their houses are located.

In a letter addressed to Duterte, the poor famers asked the incoming President to reconsider his decision of appointing Aguirre to the DOJ post.

The farmers claimed that Aguirre through machinations and using his vast knowledge of the law and powerful connections, had succeeded in taking over the ownership and control of the 212 hectare land from the previous owners FQB+7 Inc. reportedly represented by Nathaniel Bocobo of Manila.

The complainants pointed out that their organization is legally registered and that almost all of them are holders of Certificates of Land Ownership and Award (CLOA) pertaining to the disputed property.

HARRASMENT AND INTIMIDATION

The farmers also complained that Aguirre and his henchmen had been subjecting them to various forms of harassment and intimidation to force them to leave and then totally take over the property for themselves.

“Malungkot man pong sabihin ay ibat-ibang uri ng pang-aapi, pananakot at panggigipit ang aming dinaranas mula sa kamay ng mga umaangking bagong may-ari ng nabanggit na propriedad na pinagungunahan po ni Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre at ng kanyang mga kamag-anak” the letter said.

(It is with deep regret that we have to report to Your Excellency the various forms of harassment and intimidation that we are experiencing from the hands of the people led by Atty. Aguirre and his relatives who claim ownership of the land we are tilling.)

“Batid po naming si Atty. Aguirre ay isang matalik ninyong kaibigan at balita pa namin ay nakatakda ninyo siyang nombrahan bilang bagong Kalihim ng Kagawaran ng Katarungan, kaya minarapat po naming maiparating ang liham na ito sa inyo” the letter added.

(We know that Atty. Aguirre is your close friend and in fact you have just appointed him as your Justice Secretary which has further compelled us to relay this message to you).

ALTER EGO OF THE PRESIDENT

The farmers were also reacting to Duterte’s statement that he knows all the members of his official family and that they have his complete trust and confidence being his alter egos.

“You must be one whom I trust, whom I confidently work with. These are workers. I know them all,” he said of his nominees.

“Lubha po kaming natatakot sa kanya dahil sa ngayon pa lang na hindi pa siya lubusang nakakaupo bilang Kalihim ng DoJ ay hindi na siya nangingimi na gumamit ng dahas para lang masunod ang gusto niya. Ano pa po kaya ang hindi niya kayang gawin kung DOJ Secretary na siya? “they asked.

(We are afraid of him because he has no qualms of using force just to get what he wants even if he is not yet Justice Secretary. We shudder on the thought on what length he could go once he officially assumed the post of Justice Secretary).

ORDEAL

In a separate letter addressed to incumbent Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, the farmers narrated that their alleged ordeal started when they staked ownership of the land after being awarded with their respective CLOAs.

They claimed that Aguirre and his family had refused to honor the CLOAs and instead insisted that FQB+7 Inc has already lost its ownership and control of the property after it was ordered dissolved by the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 29, 2003.

In his letter-reply to the farmers dated April 24, 2015, Aguirre highlighted the fact that FQB+7 lost in a case he filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 24 of Manila.

The court reportedly ruled that the Bocobos do not own the subject property and were in fact even prevented from claiming the same and meddling in the dispute.

Aguirre even hinted that the farmers are being used by some local politicians who he claimed have an ax to grind against him and their family.

“Sa halip na kayo ay makipagtulungan at tumanaw ng utang ng loob pinili pa ninyo na kalabanin ang mga may-ari. Nagpaloko kayo sa matamis na dila ng pulitikong bang-aw na mapapasainyo ang lupang tinitirikan ninyo ” Aguirre said in his letter to the farmers.

(Instead of cooperating with the owners, you chose to believe a sweet talking rabid dog politician who promised that you could actually own the land.)

“Pinagloloko lamang kayo ng pulitikong bang-aw na iyan na hindi man lang nakatapos ng kolehiyo. Anong alam niya pagdating sa ganitong kaso? Anong sabi ng DAR tungkol dito sa pinapangarap niyo” he pointed out.

(You are just being taken for a ride by that rabid dog politician who has not even finished his college studies. What does he know about cases like these? What did the DAR people tell you about your dreams to own the property?).

NO GREATER TYRANNY

But the farmers are firm on their belief that Aguirre and his family have no right to take over the disputed property and that they were using their armed henchmen to drive them out of the land.

Political observers in Quezon province are unanimous in saying that Aguirre has a lot of explaining to do especially since he is being accused of using force and intimidation to grab the property from the poor and ordinary farmers.

One of the observers even quoted Montesquieu who once said “there is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice”.

HIDDEN BAGGAGE

The poor farmers are now asking Duterte to reconsider his decision to name Aguirre to the DOJ post, hoping that the incoming President’s high regard on the plight of the poor and powerless people like them would prevail over their friendship.

This developed as several political analysts based in Manila have expressed confidence that Duterte might just make up his mind and name a more deserving Justice Secretary “who has no strings attached and no hidden personal baggage”.

“It is of paramount importance for President Duterte to start clean for him to uphold his campaign promises to the people who believed him when he said that real change is coming under his administration” an analyst opined.

“It is not yet late for President Duterte to make some changes in the composition of his official family” the analyst continued.

HONESTY AND GOOD FAITH

Duterte struck a chord with the masses when he issued a marching order to the members of his Cabinet to limit the release of permits and other document to just three days, whether approved or not.

“I don’t want people to spend money to get something from government dahil bayad na kami. Kasama na yan sa bayad. I just want honesty and good faith in dealing with the public” he emphasized.

Analysts are convinced that Duterte places the interests of the poor and the ordinary people above else and they are hopeful that he would do the same on the case of the farmers from Mulanay, Quezon.

HOPEFUL

In an interview, Icaro and his fellow farmers have expressed confidence that Duterte would be a great President “because unlike his predecessors, he is determined to place the interests of the ordinary people above all else”.

“Naniniwala po kami na hindi kami nagkamali ng pagboto sa kanya kasama ang milyon-milyong Pilipino sa puwesto bilang Pangulo ng bansa sapagkat nakikita po naming tapat ang pagnanais niya na pagsilibihan ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan” Icaro said.

(We believe that we together with the millions of Filipinos made the right decision when we voted him to be our next President because we can see that he is determined to serve the ordinary people.)

Icaro and the people have reasons to believe that Duterte will make a good President especially since he is a stickler for justice and fairness.

Duterte is also aware of what Joseph Franklin Rutherford had said that “false riches, consisting of money, houses and lands, acquired by selfish means can be used to oppress others especially the poor”.

And he will not let the poor farmers of Mulanay, Quezon be oppressed by anyone even by one of his closest friends.

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