Manila: The country's justice secretary, who recently exonerated two key suspects behind the massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists in southern Philippines last year, cheated while in law school in 1988, a report claimed.
Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra was one of the eight students who were accused by their professor, Avelino Sebastian, of alleged cheating in the Wills and Succession class at the prestigious Ateneo de Manila School of Law in 1988, a Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report said.
The scandal prompted Ateneo to create a disciplinary committee to investigate the case. When asked about this past, Agra told PCIJ: "What I actually admitted to was that I had been charged, albeit maliciously, with cheating by my professor.
"The Disciplinary Committee created to investigate the charge exonerated me together with my other classmates. I graduated in 1990 when I should have in 1989 because I did not pass that subject. I repeated the course and completed my requirements in October 1989."
A source who works at the school told PCIJ: "All of them cheated but it was only Agra who admitted the wrongdoing, and because he had no influence at the time, he became the sacrificial lamb.
"Most, if not all, of Agra's six friends who were absolved of cheating, had money or influence or both, which got them off the hook. One was even a senator's son," said the source.
Agra and one classmate were last to be investigated. "The two were told that one of them must admit to cheating or both of them will fail. It was only Agra who admitted to cheating, thus he flunked the subject," said the source.
When asked if his wrongdoing in school would affect his credibility, Agra said: "I believe that [my] failure in that subject (wills and succession) does not mean that I'm a failure as a person or lawyer."