Vitaliano Aguirre II

Vitaliano "Vit" Napeñas Aguirre II (Tagalog: [vitɐˈljano naˈpɛɲas aˈɡiɾɛ]; born October 16, 1946)[1] is a Filipino lawyer from Quezon. He served as Secretary of Justice under President Rodrigo Duterte from 2016[2] until his resignation in 2018.[3] He previously served as Vice President and chief legal counsel of Clark Development Corporation under former President Benigno Aquino III.[4] He gained wide public attention in 2012 during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona when he was cited for contempt after he was caught covering his ears while being lectured by the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.[5]

Vitaliano Aguirre II
Vitaliano Aguirre.jpg
Secretary of Justice
In office
June 30, 2016 – April 5, 2018
PresidentRodrigo Duterte
Preceded byEmmanuel Caparas
Succeeded byMenardo Guevarra
Vice President for Legal Affairs of Clark Development Corporation
In office
March 16, 2013 – June 30, 2016
PresidentBenigno Aquino III
Preceded byPerlita M. Sagmit
Personal details
Vitaliano Napeñas Aguirre II

(1946-10-16) October 16, 1946 (age 73)
Mulanay, Quezon, Philippines
Political party
Alma materSan Beda College

Early life and educationEdit

Vitaliano Aguirre II was born and raised in the municipality of Mulanay, to Alfaro G. Aguirre and Maria Napeñas. His father was a former mayor of the town who also served as Liberal Party chairman for almost 40 years.[5] The eldest of nine children, he attended the Mulanay Elementary School and graduated as valedictorian in 1959. His family then moved to Manila where he received his high school and college education. He was a full scholar at San Beda College, graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1967.[1] He then pursued legal studies at San Beda College of Law, where he and Rodrigo Duterte would become classmates. He and Duterte are members of Lex Talionis Fraternitas.[6] He graduated from law school as valedictorian and cum laude in 1971, and passed the bar examination the same year.[4] As a young lawyer, he joined young activists who fought the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. He went into hiding for five years after the Marcos dictatorship charged him for inciting to sedition until the case against him was dropped. In later years, he would support the Marcos family in politics due to his ties with Rodrigo Duterte.[7]


He established a law firm in Makati with partners Rodolfo Robles, Sixto Brillantes, Jose Ricafrente, Antonio Nachura and Antonio San Vicente. He served as the lead counsel of Hubert Webb in the 1995 Vizconde murders case and as deputy counsel of the Feliciano Commission's fact-finding investigation of the 2003 Oakwood mutiny. He is a managing partner at Aguirre & Aguirre Law Office, and taught law at the Arellano University Law Foundation.[5] Aguirre supported the 2010 presidential campaign of President Benigno Aquino III.[7]

During the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, he was tapped as one of several private prosecutors tasked to secure the Chief Justice's conviction.[5] In February 2012, during the Impeachment of Renato Corona where he was a counsel, Aguirre was cited for contempt after a disrespectful gesture and argument towards the respected senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago, who was the most vocal on the court trial proceedings.[8] In March 2013, President Aquino appointed Aguirre as Vice President for Legal Affairs of the government-owned Clark Development Corporation.[9]

Aguirre was also a lawyer for then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. He served as the latter's chief legal counsel on the cases seeking to disqualify Duterte during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as on cases linking the President to the Davao death squads. He likewise represented a policeman who owned a quarry site turned into a firing range where remains of supposed victims of these alleged death squads were believed to have been buried.[10][11] In July 2016, following the victory of Duterte for the Philippine presidency, Aguirre was appointed as the new secretary of the Department of Justice.[12]

In July 26, 2016, Mulanay plantation farmers accused Aguirre that he was asking and "threatening" them to pay rent in a land they rightfully own. The resident farmers who have been living and farming for generations in the 200-hectare Hacienda Tulungan in Brgy. Sta. Rosa claimed that the land belongs to them under the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).[13][14] In November 27, 2016, two commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration, an attached agency to Aguirre's department, were embroiled in an extortion controversy. Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles were accused of extorting P50 million from gaming tycoon Jack Lam in exchange of release of 1,316 Chinese employees of Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino. Aguirre denied knowledge of the alleged exchange between the immigration commissioners and the tycoon, even after he personally met Jack Lam.[15]

Aguirre sparked controversy after he pushed for state prosecutors, which he controls, to file cases against incumbent senator Leila de Lima, which led to de Lima's arrest on February 24, 2017. Afterwards, in a two-page motion, prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ), which Aguirre headed, asked the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (MCRTC) Branch 204 to consolidate and handle the three cases against the senator de Lima. Judge Juanita Guerrero, presiding judge of Branch 204, was the same judge who ordered de Lima's arrest.[16]

In June 8, 2017, Aguirre downgraded from murder to homicide the charges filed against CIDG members involved in the killing of Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa in 2016, sparking public outrage. CIDG Region 8 police chief Supt. Marvin Marcos, along with 18 others, were the main suspects of the killings.[17]

During the 2017 Marawi Crisis, Aguirre tagged various opposition senators, including Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes, along with others as masterminds of the siege, an accusation that would later be proved as fabrications. Aguirre claimed that the senators flew to Marawi and met with members of two influential local political clans a few days before the May 23 siege. Aguirre showed to the media a photo of the supposed meeting. However, Aguirre was apparently unaware that the photo of the alleged meeting in Marawi was posted on a Facebook fan page created by the President's supporters on May 13, or more than a week before terrorists mounted the attack. This accusation drew flak from the public especially those he named due to the lack of credibility of his claims and the fact that he picked the image which was first shared and posted on several pro-Duterte blogs and known sources of fake news, including and[18] After the incident, Aguirre was labelled as the King of the Fake News from the citizens and other lawmakers.[19] Aguirre was criticized for the act saying that Aguirre himself "willingly" amplified fake news "like a troll" against political opponents.[20]

In September 2017, senator Risa Hontiveros caught justice secretary Aguirre drafting fabricated charges against her through text messages during a hearing on the deaths of minors caused by the Philippine Drug War, notably the brutal murder of Kian delos Santos. Aguirre's text messages instructed former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras, a member of controversial group VACC, to 'expedite' cases against Hontiveros, a sitting senator who was seeking justice for the minors killed. The same tactic was used by Aguirre against senator Leila de Lima, which led to de Lima's arrest a few months past. Despite being caught and the evidences presented in halls of Senate, Aguirre still filed cases against Hontiveros in October.[21][22]

In November 22, 2017, Aguirre cleared former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, a government ally, and other former officials of the Bureau of Customs in the charges (drug and criminal) filed against them by the country's drug agency over the smuggling of a whopping P6.4-billion shabu shipment last May, erupting into a controversy.[23]

In March 13, 2018, Aguirre cleared various drug offenders, including Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, kumpare and campaign supporter of President Duterte. Lim was tagged by Kerwin Espinosa, a self-confessed drug offender who was also cleared by Aguirre on the same day. Other offenders who were cleared included Peter Co, Max Miro, Ruel Malindangan, Jun Pepito and Lovely Adam Impal as well as 12 other unnamed persons.[24]

In March 16, 2018, Aguirre placed Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam, under provisional government protection, re-opening the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam under former president Benigno Aquino III. The complaint to re-open the case was filed by staunch Duterte supporter and ally Greco Belgica.[25]

In March 27, 2018, Aguirre tagged Cebu major Tomas Osmeña, who had a conflict with president Duterte, as a drug lord protector. However, the Philippine National Police has disapproved the tagging as there were no concrete evidences found.[26]

After continuous protests for his resignation, Aguirre resigned from his post on April 5, 2018. His resignation was accepted by president Rodrigo Duterte. Majority of politicians, including Grace Poe and Sonny Angara, have pointed out that his resignation should not be used as a shield from the injustices he made when he was justice secretary.[27] Aguirre later retaliated, stating that he left the Department of Justice with a 'better image', to which majority of politicians and fact-checking organizations do not agree with. On the same day, the people of Mulanay, Aguirre's hometown, slammed him for "bringing shame" to the town.[28] On April 6, 2018, the president appointed Menardo Guevarra as the new justice secretary.[29]

Speculations of Aguirre gunning for a Senate seat was widespread since House Speaker Alvarez stated that he was asking President Duterte to include Aguirre in his party's senatorial slate,[30] however, Aguirre did not file his candidacy for the 2019 elections[31] after being ranked at the bottom of a senatorial survey.[32][33]


  • Aguirre, during his lead as Secretary of Justice has faced many controversies, some of which are:
  • He was instrumental for the arrest and prosecution of opposition senator Leila de Lima due to her allegedly coddling of drug activities inside New Bilibid Prison as former DOJ secretary.[34][35]
  • He allegedly requested to expedite cases against senator Risa Hontiveros.[21][22]
  • The alleged false tagging of senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes to the Marawi siege which he eventually denied.[36]
  • Aguirre allegedly threatened Mulanay plantation farmers to pay him "rent" for the land which the farmers claimed as theirs under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) but Aguirre insisted the allegation that the residents were living beyond the allowed boundary prescribed by the government.[13][14]
  • The amendment of the cases of the policemen allegedly involved in the Espinosa slay from murder to homicide.[34]
  • Clearance of BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment case which was under his watch.[34]
  • DOJ prosecutors dropped the charges on Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa due to alleged weak evidence by "inconsistencies of the lone witness" former Drug "distributor" Marcelo Adorco.[34] CIDG then overturned this and filed a case against Peter Lim. Makati court ordered for his arrest and prosecution and the government offered a P500,000 bounty for his capture.[37]
  • The re-investigation of the PDAF case of 2013 in which he intended to put alleged Pork Barrel mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles as a state witness.[34]
  • He was slammed by Mayor Ojeda of his hometown of Mulanay and accused him of "bringing shame to the town".[28] Ojedas are political rival of Aguirres in the said town.[38]
  • Aguirre is being "investigated" by the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which launched a "preliminary examination" into allegations of "crimes against humanity" allegedly committed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the midst of Philippine war on drugs.[39]


  1. ^ a b "Maikling Sariling Talambuhay ni Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre II". Balitang Kamhantik. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  2. ^ "Vitaliano Aguirre is Duterte's secretary of justice". GMA News. May 18, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  3. ^ Ranada, Pia (April 5, 2018). "Menardo Guevarra named new justice secretary". Rappler. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "The Duterte Cabinet". Interaksyon. June 1, 2016. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Dalangin-Fernandez, L. (February 29, 2012). "Lawyer who dared cross Miriam no stranger to controversy". Interaksyon. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  6. ^ Valente, Catherine S. (April 6, 2018). "Duterte drops Aguirre". The Manila Times. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Focus: Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II | Inquirer News". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  8. ^ "Senate cites prosecutor for contempt | ABS-CBN News". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  9. ^ Cervantes, D. (February 25, 2013). "Corona prosecutor to assume CDC post". The Philippine Star. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  10. ^ Punay, Edu (July 9, 2016). "Aguirre now prober of evil". The Philippine Star. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  11. ^ "Judge quashes CHR search warrant". Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  12. ^ "Aguirre mum on reason behind resignation, says leaving DOJ 'better than we found it' | ABS-CBN News". April 6, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  13. ^ a b "200-hectare Mulanay plantation pits farmers vs. Justice chief Aguirre | News | GMA News Online". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Agrarian dispute brews in Quezon estate | Inquirer News". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  15. ^ "Ombudsman indicts ex-Immigration execs on plunder". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  16. ^ "DOJ wants De Lima drug cases consolidated". March 4, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  17. ^ "DOJ downgrades case vs Espinosa killers to homicide". June 8, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  18. ^ "Did Justice Secretary Aguirre fall for fake news? | Inquirer News". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ Espinosa, Julie (June 8, 2017). "Poe: Aguirre amplifying fake news 'like a troll' to malign rivals". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  21. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  22. ^ a b "Hontiveros wants Justice Secretary Aguirre to resign". YouTube. September 11, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "DOJ clears Faeldon over P6.4-B BOC shabu". November 22, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  24. ^ "DOJ clears Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim of drug raps". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  25. ^ "Janet Lim Napoles now enjoying partial witness protection". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  26. ^ "Tomas Osmeña not on drug personalities list, says PNP chief 'Bato' de la Rosa | Inquirer News". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  27. ^ "Poe: Aguirre should not go unpunished if he committed mistakes | Inquirer News". April 5, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  28. ^ a b "Mayor Ojeda slams Aguirre for bringing 'shame' to Mulanay". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  29. ^ [3][dead link]
  30. ^ "Alvarez to ask Duterte to include Aguirre in 2019 senatorial ticket | News | GMA News Online". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  31. ^ "Aguirre leaving office, eyeing Senate run?". March 28, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  32. ^ "Reelectionists, comebackers top 2019 senatorial survey: SWS | ABS-CBN News". October 11, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  33. ^ "SWS: Different lists of candidates led to varied senatorial rankings in 2 surveys | ABS-CBN News". October 13, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  34. ^ a b c d e "Six controversial cases that earned Aguirre criticism". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  35. ^ "Inside the Bilibid Prison".
  36. ^ "Did Justice Secretary Aguirre fall for fake news? | Inquirer News". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  37. ^ "Duterte to Peter Lim: Don't surrender, just kill yourself".
  38. ^ "Eleciton 2019 Results for Mulanay, Quezon".
  39. ^ "Aguirre's resignation won't free him from ICC's radar". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
Political offices
Preceded by
Emmanuel Caparas
Secretary of Justice
Succeeded by
Menardo Guevarra