By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte has named Senior Deputy Executive Secretary (SDES) undersecretary Menardo Guevarra as the new Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary, replacing Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement only hours after Duterte revealed that he has accepted Aguirre’s resignation from his post as Justice Secretary.
Roque, in an interview with Malacañang reporters Thursday night, said that the President opted not to delay the announcement of Guevarra’s new appointment.
“Ang Department of Justice po ay isa sa mga pinakasensitibong departamento dahil ang katarungan ang pinag-uusapan (The Department of Justice is one of the most sensitive departments because it is justice that is at stake here),” Roque said.
“Kilala naman natin si Usec Guevarra. Talaga namang napatunayang kakayahan at kagalingan sa batas at integridad meron si Secretary Guevarra (We all know that Usec Guevarra is a seasoned lawyer and he has already proven his expertise and integrity on the field),” he added.
According to the Palace official, Guevarra’s new appointment from the Office of the President to the DOJ was signed by Duterte Thursday evening. Guevarra took his oath of office the same night.
“The appointment paper was signed now and I suppose he will take his oath right away,” Roque said.
“At dahil ang Kongreso po ay (And since the Congress is) on recess, this is a valid ad interim appointment, he is a full-fledged secretary,” he added.
Duterte has just announced in a speech in Malacañang Thursday afternoon that he accepted the resignation of Aguirre but did not specify the reason why the former Justice Secretary decided to step down from his post.
“But may I just also tell you now that, I conferred with the officials, I accepted the resignation of Vit Aguirre, my fraternity brother as Secretary of Justice. I’m now in the hustings looking for a replacement,” Duterte said.
Roque said that Duterte also did not tell him the reason behind Aguirre’s resignation.
“Hindi ko na po nakita ang resignation letter at ang sabi na lang ni Presidente, pakisabi nalang na (I did not see the resignation letter and the President said to just tell you that) it was just a matter of accepting a resignation tendered to him by Secretary Aguirre,” Roque said.
Guevarra, who placed second in the 1985 bar examinations, was with the technical staff of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. He is no stranger to current Palace reporters as he gives Palace press briefings during occasions when the presidential spokesperson is away.
Based on the website of the Ateneo School of Law, Guevarra took up graduate studies in Economics at the University of the Philippines after obtaining his A.B. degree, Major in Political Science, from Ateneo de Manila in 1974.
He worked as staff economist at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and took up law in the evening at the Ateneo.
After serving at the Constitutional Commission, Guevarra later joined a well-known law firm in Makati and formed his own law partnership in 1990. Until April, 2015, Guevarra was in-active private law practice and faculty member of the Ateneo School of Law.
Guevarra returned to government service through his appointment as member of the 2010 Philippine Truth Commission, Deputy Executive Secretary for legal affairs at the Office of the President in May, 2015, and commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission, in February, 2016.
Guevarra will be replacing Aguirre who resigned following weeks of speculation that there will be a revamp in the Cabinet which stemmed from President Duterte’s “disappointment” with the performance of some of his Cabinet members.
Talks on Aguirre’s departure came following the decision of the DOJ to dismiss the charges against high-profile drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim, among others.