A number of opposition lawmakers linked to the Maute terror group by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre have issued furious denials.
Sec. Aguirre had claimed that senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Antonio Trillanes IV, Representative Gary Alejano and Aquino Cabinet member Ronald Llamas had met in Marawi City before the crisis erupted.
Speaking to reporters today (Wednesday, June 7) he claimed the group met at the city’s Lake View Resort Hotel on May 2. “I only received this information yesterday,” he said. “This could be the spark that triggered the terroristic acts in Marawi.”
First to hit back at the claim was Senator Trillanes, who said Vitaliano’s “incompetence is only matched by his stupidity”.
“For the record, I am not involved in any way with the Maute group or the Marawi incident. Secretary Lorenzana [defence secretary] said so himself.
“I also did not have any meeting in Marawi in May 2 since I haven’t visited Marawi for the past three years. But don’t take my word for it, simply check the Senate records for May 2,” he added.
“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 also hit back, urging Sec. Aguirre to check his facts before making another “false accusation”.
“Is fake news enough for the head of our country’s Department of Justice to make these outrageous allegations?” he asked.
“To be clear, there was never any meeting among the individuals mentioned by Sec. Aguirre.”
Sen Aquino said he was at the PICC in Pasay City on May 2 as the PUP commencement speaker and also attended the Senate.
However, he did confirm that he went to Marawi City on May 19 for the launch of the first Negosyo Center in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — but was with a military escort throughout the trip.
“These are easily verifiable for anyone who cares to find the truth,” he said.
He added that 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”.
“This tragedy could have been an opportunity to unite the Philippines against a common enemy. Instead, it’s being used to further political interests and further divide our country,” the senator lamented.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the president of the Liberal Party, has also rubbished the claim, saying: “This is pure nonsense and this is the nth time Secretary Aguirre has come up with baseless accusations linking the Liberal Party (LP) to destabilisation efforts.
“Every false accusation Aguirre makes against the LP results in further damage to his credibility. It is another attempt at deflecting the issue from the unresolved scandals facing his office.”
Asked for comment on Sec. Aguirre’s allegations, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon was succinct. “Hogwash!” he said.