President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who had been under fire following the dismissal of criminal charges against alleged drug lords.
"I accepted the resignation of Vit Aguirre, my fraternity brother, as Secretary of Justice. I am now in the hustings looking for a replacement," Duterte said at an event in Malacañang.
Duterte earlier expressed disappointment over the dismissal, by a panel of state prosecutors, of complaints the police filed against suspected drug lords Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim and their co-respondents.
The President even reportedly told Aguirre that he would take the place of the drug suspects in jail if they escaped accountability.
The public uproar caused by the dismissal prompted Aguirre to order a review of the case and launch a criminal probe against the investigating prosecutors.
Aguirre had shrugged off earlier calls for his resignation, saying he would stay in his post as long as he had the trust and confidence of the President.
The 71-year-old former trial lawyer is facing a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman over allegations that he abetted the proliferation of fake news in government.
Aguirre had said several opposition lawmakers met with two political families in Marawi City weeks before clashes between the ISIS-inspired Maute group and government security forces broke out in May last year.
He also claimed that a Korean mafia was behind the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in October 2016.
Aguirre has also been implicated in the P50-million bribery scandal in November 2016 involving two officials of the Bureau of Immigration and gaming tycoon Jack Lam, after he met with the Chinese businessman to discuss the condition of arrested Chinese workers at a casino resort in Pampanga.
Duterte and Aguirre were law school classmates. They are also members of the San Beda College of Law-based Lex Talionis Fraternity.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte on Thursday appointed Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra to replace Aguirre. —NB/BM, GMA News