Aguirre: No arrest of Mighty Corp. owner unless charges filed

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II defended on Wednesday his decision not to apprehend a businessman whom President Rodrigo Duterte ordered arrested for alleged tax evasion and economic sabotage.

Aguirre said that at the time of his meeting with Mighty Corp. owner Alex Wong Chu King on Tuesday afternoon, there was no case filed against him yet.

Aguirre’s decision came just hours after presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters through a text message that Duterte had ordered the arrest of Chu King following the seizure of P2 billion worth of cigarettes by the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

“At the time of our meeting yesterday, there were no cases filed against Mr. Alex Wong Chu King yet, that is why I did not order his arrest,” the Justice secretary said.

 Aguirre said that even if the DOJ wanted laws to be faithfully obeyed they still had to observe due process in the case of the businessman.

“There is no reason to have Alex Wong Chu King arrested as of the moment. While the Department of Justice is [at] the forefront of ensuring that our laws are faithfully obeyed, there is a process that has to be observed under the law,” said Aguirre, who has dismissed without investigation police involvement in extralegal killings.

The president has in the past ordered people arrested — gaming tycoon Jack Lam, for example — even if only courts can issue arrest warrants. He has also issued “shoot to kill” orders — against Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who surrendered to authorities but was killed by police officers serving a search warrant on his jail cell last November — against suspects.

Aguirre advised the Department of Finance, the BOC and the BIR to sit down with Mighty Corp. to determine the company’s exact liabilities. He said that if such liabilities existed, they should be collected by the government authorities.

“If the DOF or the BIR or the BOC will determine that a criminal case should be filed against Mighty Corp., its officers or against Alex Wo Chu King with us at the DOJ, then we will faithfully discharge our duty and determine if probable cause exists,” he also said.

Chu King’s company is accused of producing fake cigarettes and using fake tax stamps.

Chu King’s lawyer, Sigfrid Fortun, also denied that his client was the one involved in a supposed bribery attempt on the president.

“Mighty was never involved or identified as the giver of the bribe but another cigarette manufacturer unrelated to the company,” he said.

He said that Panelo might have been fed wrong information that led to him to label Mighty Corp. as the company involved in the alleged bribery incident.