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Youth groups call for removal of Aguirre as DOJ chief

A group of youth leaders on Wednesday called for the removal of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II from office for allegedly spreading fake information while acting on his capacity as a Cabinet official.

In a 14-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Millennials Against Dictators (MAD) and Akbayan Youth charged Aguirre for violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The group cited Aguirre's accusations last month that several opposition lawmakers met the Lucman and Alonto clans in Marawi City weeks before clashes between the ISIS-inspired Maute group and government security forces broke out in the city.

Aguirre has refused to apologize for his remarks, saying, "I have nothing to apologize for. I believe it's my duty." 

The complaint also mentioned the DOJ chief's claims that a Korean mafia was behind the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo. 

The complaint said the remarks of Aguirre has led to his inadvertent contribution to the "fake news epidemic" and has made him unfit to serve in the Duterte administration.

"Respondent grossly neglected his duties and has made a mockery of the justice system where perceived foes are publicly persecuted rather than properly investigated and prosecuted," it said.

"As head of the Department of Justice, respondent falls short of the exacting standards required of a public office and thus must no less be removed from office in order to preserve the image of the justice system and restore the public's trust in government," the complaint added.

In an interview, MAD co-convenor Karla Yu said  Aguirre must be held accountable for his statements, being a public official who spreads misinformation to the public in a time when fake news have become rampant on the internet.

"It's a misuse and abuse of his public office to actually spread misinformation and we think that our public servants must be held at a higher ethical standard. Sila po ay accountable sa ating mga mamamayan at sa bawat Pilipino," Yu said.

Yu said the youth have had enough of Aguirre who she said has shown unprofessionalism in his office, saying the complaint is a symbol of the youth taking a stand against lies.

"Naniniwala po kami na dapat matanggal po si Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre sa posisyon, hindi po karapat-dapat na nakaupo siya diyan because he has betrayed public trust. He's not shown professionalism in the kind of statements that he's been releasing," she said.

The complainants include Shamah Bulangis, Andrei Buendia of the Ateneo Debate Society, Anna Mercaldi of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, Fatima Tolentino and Nikki Nicolas of the San Beda College of Law Student Government, Julie Corridor of University of the Philippines Diliman University Student Council, sociology student Rae Emmanuel Echaveria and Jonna Roldan of the De La Salle University-Manila.

Aguirre declined to comment on the specific allegations against him.

"I have to read the complaint first," he said in a text message to GMA News Online.

The Justice chief had earlier backtracked on his pronouncements about the Marawi crisis, saying he did not mean to implicate the Alonto and Lucman political families and Senator Bam Aquino in the ongoing armed conflict.

As for Jee's death, Aguirre had said that he had explained to South Korean Embassy officials in a meeting last February 24 his reasons for believing in the existence and in the possible involvement of a Korean mafia in the crime.

He also said South Korean Ambassador Kim Jae Shin gave the National Bureau of Investigation the go signal to probe any involvement of the Korean mafia, if any, in the abduction and in the killing of Jee.

"We cleared the air," Aguirre said in a statement issued on February 26. —with a report from Virgil Lopez/KG/KBK, GMA News