DESPITE retracting an earlier statement that members of the opposition met with influential clans in Marawi weeks before the Maute terrorist group attacked the city, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd must apologize publicly, Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th insisted Friday.
Aquino, one of four individuals named earlier by Aguirre as among those who met with powerful families in Marawi City on May 2, said the Justice chief should take responsibility for his “reckless accusations” and apologize.
The opposition senator was apparently not satisfied with the clarification from the Justice secretary, who said the lawmaker was not present in the alleged meeting.
Apart from Aquino, Aguirre also named Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, opposition congressman Gary Alejano, and former presidential adviser on political affairs Ronald Llamas as among those who supposedly had a meeting with local leaders in Marawi.
Aquino said earlier that on May 2, he attended the graduation ceremonies of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines at the Philippine International Convention Center as commencement speaker. He also attended the session at the Senate that day.
The Department of Justice however ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe “the alleged destabilization plot against the government of the Republic of the Philippines by some senators and other opposition leaders.”
Aguirre tapped NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct the probe into the supposed links of some senators and opposition leaders to the Marawi seige.
“[T]he [NBI], through Director Dante A. Gierran, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct investigation and case build-up over the alleged destabilization plot against the government of the Republic of the Philippines by some senators and other opposition leaders, and if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate cases against those who may be found liable,” stated Aguirre’s Department Order No. 385.
Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe, who heads the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, expressed alarm over the proliferation of fake news on the internet, which she claimed was adversely affecting public and private interests.
What made it worse, she said, was that no less than the secretary of the Department of Justice appeared too willing to exploit and amplify fake news.
“He (Aguirre) was at it again when he recklessly linked several of our colleagues in Congress to the Maute group, only to backtrack and offer excuses,” Poe said.
The lawmaker urged Congress to look into the malicious acts and come up with laws to address the fake news phenomenon and penalize authors as well as the sites wittingly hosting them.
Giving her take on the matter, detained Sen. Leila de Lima said Aguirre’s latest blunder was reminiscent of the drug-related allegations that the Cabinet secretary lodged against her.
“Like his boss (President Rodrigo Duterte), Aguirre has been lying about my alleged drug links,” de Lima said in a hand-written statement, adding that the Justice chief “has no qualms lying, and sowing intrigues, about many other things.”
“More than a clown’s bungling, Aguirre’s latest blunder therefore seems more like a calculated step to hype up the terrorist scare by painting a picture of a malevolent conspiracy behind the Marawi crisis involving prominent members of the opposition,” she wrote.