The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has slammed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for falsely claiming he had been misquoted by the media.
The verifiable untruth came after he claimed opposition lawmakers had met influential families in Marawi City shortly before the Maute terror group went on the rampage — claiming it was part of attempts to destabilise the Duterte government.
In a hard-hitting statement, the NUJP has told Aguirre that the media would not be “scapegoats as you try to weasel your way out of your latest bout of foot-in-mouth disease”.
“You lie when you claim you were ‘misquoted’ when you lied about the fictitious meeting between opposition politicians and prominent Marawi clans that you then attempted to portray as a prelude to the continuing battle between government forces and extremist gunmen.
“There was no misquotation. Your words were recorded on video and audio. So, no, you are not passing the buck on to reporters who did what they are supposed to do – accurately report your official acts and pronouncements.”
As we reported yesterday, the subjects of Aguirre’s allegations — senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Antonio Trillanes IV, Representative Gary Alejano and Aquino Cabinet member Ronald Llamas — reacted furiously to the slur against them.
Senator Trillanes said: “The incompetence of Aguirre is only matched by his stupidity. I would advise him to avoid getting his intel from Facebook conspiracy theorists.”
Senator Aquino asked: “Is fake news enough for the head of our country’s Department of Justice to make these outrageous allegations?”
Official Senate records confirm that both senators were present on May 2, the day Aguirre claimed they were in Marawi City.
“It is bad enough that you have shown no qualms about throwing the law, the truth and justice out the window in your headlong rush to persecute — sorry, prosecute — perceived foes of the administration,” the NUJP said.
“But trying to blame others for your blunders unmasks you as a mean-spirited coward.”
Senator Grace Poe has also criticised the justice secretary today (Thursday, June 8), saying: “As chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, I am alarmed by the proliferation of fake news on the internet both adversely affecting public and private interest.
“What makes it worse is when the Justice Secretary himself willingly exploits and amplifies such fake news like a troll, without a modicum of effort to at least verify the claim just to malign political opponents.
“I call on Secretary Aguirre to faithfully do his duty to serve public interest, and that requires siding with the truth.”
Aguirre has reportedly apologised in private to some of those he slandered, but is yet to make a public show of remorse.