Sign in / Join

Aguirre: Channeling ‘perya barker’ or Pontius Pilate?

(UPDATED) Several senators criticize Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for his behavior during a pro-Duterte rally at Luneta

EGGING ON THE CROWD. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II speaks during a rally to show support for President Rodrigo Duterte, February 25, 2017. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

(UPDATED) Was he channeling a "perya (circus) barker" or Pontius Pilate?

For at least two senators, the behavior of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II at a pro-Duterte rally over the weekend was simply tasteless.

Aguirre, speaking onstage during the rally for President Rodrigo Duterte, had asked the crowd which Duterte critic they wanted to be jailed next, after Senator Leila de Lima.

"Sabi ‘nyo may gusto kayong isunod? Sino? (You said you wanted us to go after someone else. Who?)" the justice chief asked.

"Trillanes!" the crowd shouted, referring to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

"Tulungan ‘nyo ako (Help me)," Aguirre responded.

Trillanes, in a chance interview on Monday, February 27, said Aguirre’s behavior at the rally just proves he’s unfit to be justice chief.

"Alam ‘nyo parang si Poncio Pilato. Malapit-lapit pa naman na ‘yung Mahal na Araw (You know, he’s like Pontius Pilate. Holy Week is about to begin too)," the senator told reporters, just a couple of days ahead of Ash Wednesday.

"It shows ano kalidad ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, especially secretary of justice ito. I cannot stress that enough, kaya nga hinarang ko ‘yan. ‘Di talaga siya pang-secretary of justice. Pang-ano sya, pang-barker ng political rallies," he added.

(It shows the quality of the government officials we have, especially since he’s even the secretary of justice. I cannot stress that enough, that’s why I even tried to block his appointment. He really isn’t fit to be secretary of justice. He’s fit to be a barker for political rallies.)

Speaking of barker, Senator Grace Poe reminded Aguirre that he is "expected to administer justice fairly and not to moonlight as a perya (circus) barker who agitates the crowds."

"I know that lawyers are given allowances for theatrics, but that night you clearly crossed the line, and in the process trampled the ethics that guide you, by asking the people who to prosecute next, as if it were their choice," Poe added.

"To say that you have been carried away by the cheers is no excuse. A justice secretary should be made of sterner stuff, one who is never swayed by partisan provocation, because when he does, he betrays his oath and renders his very own self unfit for the job."

‘Lynch mob culture’

Two of De Lima’s allies and fellow senators, Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, also slammed Aguirre.

"Reckless and irresponsible. Cases are filed based on the evidence and the evidence only, yet here we have a secretary of justice asking the crowd as to who is to be charged and jailed next," Pangilinan said.

Hontiveros also said the justice chief is encouraging Filipinos to act like a lynch mob.

"It is extremely disconcerting that we have a justice secretary who is crowdsourcing the next person who he will prosecute. He is dangerously promoting a lynch mob culture," she pointed out.

"The justice secretary must learn to distinguish between prosecution and persecution. The former is based on legitimate investigation and the painstaking job of building cases, the latter is the outright systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by the state." –

Inside Track is Rappler’s intelligencer on people, events, places and everything of public interest. It’s a take-off from Newsbreak’s Inside Track section. Contributions are most welcome. Just send bits of information to