MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte continues to have confidence in Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre despite the latter’s being embroiled in yet another controversy over allegations he made, then recanted.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella made this clear Thursday, as the voluble DOJ chief came under fire for claiming earlier that three opposition lawmakers had met with key Maranao families days before the siege of Marawi began May 23, implying they had a hand in it.
On Wednesday night, hours after making the claim against Sens. Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV and party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, the Justice secretary issued an apology to the Lucman and Alonto families, among the most influential and respected Maranao leaders.
He did not, however, apologize to the three lawmakers and the fourth man who was supposedly with them in Marawi: former presidential adviser Ronald Llamas, who served in the Cabinet of President Noynoy Aquino, first cousin of the senator.
Aguirre claimed he was misquoted by media, and had never linked the Lucmans and Alontos to the events in Marawi, where hundreds of Maute Group-led forces have laid siege to the city since May 23, forcing 90 percent of the city’s population to flee.
On Thursday afternoon, Aguirre claimed he was not the source of the picture circulated in media, showing the lawmakers in a photo during the supposed “meeting” in Marawi. He said media was unfair, and he did not share any photos with them.
Guesting at the Kapihan sa Senado on Thursday (June 8), Senator Aquino IV disproved allegations made by the Justice Secretary.
Aquino said that at least two Cabinet Secretaries – Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana – have dismissed the allegations as completely “absurd,” and that Aguirre himself has already apologized for the “fake news.”
Aquino said, “It was very irresponsible for Secretary Aguirre to make those statements, when it was so easy to find out the truth.”
On the date (May 2) of the supposed meeting, Senators Trillanes and Aquino were in Manila attending Senate sessions.
Aquino also got full support from Trade Secretary Lopez, who said Aquino had indeed been in Marawi days before the siege began, but it was to grace a GO Negosyo event on the DTI’s invitation.
Aguirre, meanwhile, refused further comment when asked if he will also issue a public apology to the lawmakers.
in Malacañang, Abella said the information shared by Aguirre regarding the Marawi siege will remain the subject of speculation until the full validation.
Nonetheless, he added, Aguirre was simply doing his job.
For his part, Abella reiterated assurances that information from his office is fully vetted.