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Guevarra to meet with DoJ agencies

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Menardo I. Guevarra takes his oath before President Rodrigo Duterte —PHILSTAR

JUSTICE SECRETARY Menardo I. Guevarra will meet beginning this week with the heads of the 10 attached agencies of the Department of Justice (DoJ), according to the department’s spokesperson Erickson H. Balmes.

Mr. Balmes on Sunday said in a text message when sought for comment that the purpose of these meetings is for Mr. Guevarra “to get to know them… and to see how he can best help them sa programs nila (with their programs.)”

These agencies are the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG), Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Parole and Probation Administration (PPA), Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Office for Alternative Dispute Resolution (OADR), Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), and Land Registration Authority (LRA).

When asked if Mr. Guevarra had any specific plans for the agencies, Mr. Balmes said, “Wala pa po, present muna agencies plans nila (none yet, the agencies will first present their plans.)”

Mr. Guevarra spent his first day as justice secretary with a tour last Wednesday around the DoJ headquarters in Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila, including at the respective offices of the National Prosecution Service and the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

Mr. Balmes, speaking with reporters during that tour, cited the earlier protocol followed by Mr. Guevarra’s predecessor, Vitaliano N. Aguirre II, of holding separate meetings with the DoJ’s agencies.

It is unclear yet who will represent BuCor, since Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director-General Ronald M. dela Rosa has yet to formally assume the post of outgoing BuCor Chief Superintendent Valfrie G. Tabian. Mr. dela Rosa himself is due to retire from the PNP’s top post on April 18and will be succeeded by Regional Director Oscar D. Albayalde of the National Capital Region Police Force.

The DoJ has come under increasing public scrutiny in the light of recent controversies, notably the provisional entry of alleged pork barrel-scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in the WPP, as well as the earlier dismissed drug case against self-confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa and other high-profile drug personalities. That case has since been placed under review by a new panel of prosecutors.

Meanwhile, PAO Chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta continues her investigation into the previous administration’s P3.5-billion Dengvaxia immunization program.

Prior to his appointment to the DoJ, Mr. Guevarra was Senior Deputy Executive Secretary.

Last month, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) recommended to the Office of the President the suspension pending the investigation of DoJ prosecutors who handled the drug case against Espinosa and more than 20 others.

Commissioner and PACC spokesperson Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica said Mr. Aguirre himself had already acted on the PACC’s recommendation. “It was the resignation of Secretary Aguirre. What we recommended was only the preventive suspension (of) the prosecutors who dismissed the drug charges and a show-cause order for the police which they openly responded to, then the action was that the Secretary of Justice (SoJ) resigned,” Mr. Belgica said.

“He (Mr. Aguirre) took it upon himself [to resign], because we would really investigate to save the DoJ from humiliation and to preserve its integrity,” he added.

As for the appointment of Mr. Guevarra as Mr. Aguirre’s successor, Mr. Belgica said: “We hope the best for him because we have a lot of things to work on. We have very high hopes for Secretary Guevarra. We hope he succeeds, and we will help him also.” — Dane Angelo M. Enerio with Arjay L. Balinbin