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Aguirre files wiretapping raps vs. Hontiveros

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday filed a criminal complaint with the Pasay City Prosecutor's Office against Senator Risa Hontiveros following the disclosure of his supposed text exchanges with former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras during a Senate inquiry last month.

Aguirre accused Hontiveros of three counts of violation of Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Act for alleged unauthorized prying into an exchange of private text messages and the subsequent act of making it public.

The Justice secretary filed the complaint before heading to the Senate, where he will file an ethics complaint against Hontiveros.

Aguirre will ask the Senate ethics commitee to suspend or expel the senator.

He also explained why he filed the criminal complaint with the National Prosecution Service, an attached agency of the Department of Justice, instead of the Office of the Ombudsman, which is mandated to probe and prosecute high ranking officials over cases cognizable by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

"After further study, I came to the conclusion that it is the civil courts and the National Prosecution Service that have jurisdiction over the cases because the offenses were committed when Sen. Risa was not in the performance of her official duties," Aguirre said in a text message. 

The criminal complaint stemmed from Hontiveros' privilege speech on September 11 when she claimed to have discovered through a photo of the text message that Aguirre and Paras were planning to file cases against her.

She said the photo was taken by a member of the press during the Senate hearing on September 5 on the death of teenage student Kian delos Santos.

Aguirre, however, would not comment on the content of the text messages, nor address allegations that he was plotting to bring cases against Hontiveros, whose office took custody of three witnesses to Delos Santos' killing during an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City on August 16.

Reacting to the filing of the complaint, Hontiveros described it as a "desperate attempt to deflect" the public attention on Aguirre's supposed text exchanges to Paras. 

"The case filed against me by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre [is] a desperate attempt to deflect public attention away from his text conversation inadvertently captured by someone's camera lens, which caught him red-handed plotting against me during a Senate hearing inside the Senate. This is the real issue here," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros earlier said that there was no wiretapping involved.

"There was no intent to tap or intercept his messages. The law is clear. What is prohibited is willfully and knowingly committing any acts constituting wiretapping," she said.

She also asked Aguirre to resign over alleged unethical behavior, a call dismissed by the Justice chief who vowed to remain in his post for as long as he has the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte. —ALG/RSJ, GMA News