Youth groups demand Justice Secretary is sacked for spreading fake news

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Youth groups demand Justice Secretary is sacked for spreading fake news
Some of the young people taking a stand against the Justice Secretary’s false claims

A coalition of youth groups has launched an ethics complaint against Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for allegedly spreading fake news.

Ahead of an official inquiry to address his apparently false claims, youth groups have taken the lead by filing a complaint today (Wednesday, July 5) before the Office of the Ombudsman.

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They accuse Aguirre of violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Karla Yu of Millennials Against Dictators, one of the groups complaining about Aguirre, told Rappler: “In this day and age where fake news is rampant, there are fake sites on social media, we believe that it is a misuse of public office to actually spread misinformation.

“Our public servants must be held to higher ethical standards.”

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The ‘administrative complaint’ could lead to suspension or dismissal from office following a formal investigation.

However, the complainants say a full enquiry should not be necessary, as the president could fire him at will. “If he resigns, that’s very good, that’s ‘delicadeza’, but our strongest position would be for the President to actually take him out of office,” Ms Yu said.

Youth groups demand Justice Secretary is sacked for spreading fake news
Aguirre shows a photo that he alleged showed opposition lawmakers meeting in Marawi City

Among the grounds cited in the complaint is Aguirre’s false claim that opposition lawmakers held a secret meeting in Marawi, with the insinuation that this might have led to the ongoing clashes in the city.

The allegation was comprehensively rebuffed when the accused politicians were able to prove they were elsewhere at the time. It was also demonstrated that the photo was actually taken in 2015 at Iloilo airport.

The complainants have also cited Aguirre’s allegation that there was an ambush attempt on Lalaine Martinez, wife of a high-profile drug convict who testified against Senator Leila de Lima, on the day that the senator was arrested.

Even after police denied any knowledge of such an attack, Aguirre stood by it and even produced photos of a bloodied Lalaine and her car with a broken windshield.

When asked why she had not sought medical attention for her bullet wound, Aguirre claimed she “self-medicated”.

Also included in the complaint is Aguirre’s allegation that staff at the Korean embassy were involved in organised crime. Seoul slammed the accusation as “wrong, unfounded and misleading” — especially because he did not present any evidence to substantiate it.

Aguirre has not publicly apologised for the fake Marawi meeting allegations, despite requests for him to do so, and even tried to suggest he had been “misquoted” by the media.

Despite the controversies, the Malacañang has said that Aguirre enjoys the full trust of the president. “He has been doing an excellent job actually in the Department of Justice,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

However, for the complainants, “enough is enough”.

Ms Yu said: ”We cannot take these things sitting down and we must allow the public to take a stand on these issues and tell our government, we’ve had enough, we can no longer stomach these perpetuated lies… more so from officials of government who are in a position of power.”

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