SENATORS Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Antonio Trillanes 4th denied meeting with local officials of Marawi City days before the Maute Group attacked the city as claimed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd.
“Is fake news enough for the head of our country’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to make these outrageous allegations?” Aquino asked.
Aguirre sought an investigation of the alleged meeting between the two senators and local leaders in Marawi City on May 2.
He said the meeting could have “sparked the terroristic acts in Marawi.”
Aquino and Trillanes maintained that they were not in Marawi City on the said date.
Trillanes said he has not been in Marawi City in three years.
“To be clear, there was never any meeting among the individuals mentioned by Secretary Aguirre. On May 2, I was the PUP commencement speaker at the PICC (Philippine International Convention Center) and attended the session at the Philippine Senate,” Aquino said.
He admitted going to Marawi City on May 19 but that was to attend the launching of the first ‘Go Negosyo’ Center in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The senator also said that during his stay in Marawi, he was with some military personnel.
Also with him in the Go Negosyo event were Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista and Gen. Nixon Fortes.
Trade Secretary Secretary Mon Lopez has confirmed that he was in Marawi City for the Negosyo Center launch.
“It would be prudent for Sec. Aguirre to clarify dates, seek evidence and request for official statements from legitimate government agencies before he makes yet another false accusation,” Aquino noted.
Trillanes also advised the Justice secretary to avoid getting his “intel” from conspiracy theorists on Facebook.
“The incompetence of Aguirre is only matched by his stupidity,” the senator said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan branded Aguirre’s claim as baseless because no less than Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., cleared the Liberal Party (LP) or the opposition of any involvement in any destabilization plot.
Pangilinan, LP president, said they asked Lorenzana and Esperon during the briefing in the Senate if they had intelligence information linking LP or the opposition to the Marawi incident and both denied having any such information.
Aguirre on Wednesday wanted to establish the links of Aquino and Trillanes with opposition congressman Gary Alejano, former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas and local leaders in Marawi.
He said that it’s possible that the meeting could have sparked the terroristic acts in Marawi.
“Hindi ko malaman (I can’t understand) why after they went there nagkagulo na (there was chaos) after two weeks. They met with the people there, they met with several families there,” the DOJ chief pointed out.
Aguirre believes that it is also possible that the meeting “agitated” groups in the city, and could even be part of moves to destabilize the Duterte administration.