Justice Secretary tags opposition senators to Marawi crisis, Resorts World attack

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  • Justice Secretary Aguirre tagged Senators Aquino and Trillanes in Marawi crisis
  • Aguirre retracted his allegations, saying he was misquoted by the press
  • Aguirre showed a photo to support his claims but the photo was taken in 2015, not 2017
  • Aguirre said De Lima is responsible for PEZA's jurisdiction over Resorts World Manila's fire safety permits
  • De Lima says jurisdiction is supported by law

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II tagged opposition senators Bam Aquino, Antonio Trillanes and Leila de Lima in the recent Marawi crisis and Resorts World Manila attacks.

Aguirre said Aquino and Trillanes were with Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano and former Aquino administration presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas to meet with the Alonto and Lucman clan in Marawi weeks before the crisis broke out.

Sina Senator Bam Aquino, hindi naman… sinasabi ko lang, na he went to Marawi on April 24 and April 28 and they stayed. They had a meeting at Lake View Resort Hotel on May 2. Present were Senator Aquino, Ronald Llamas, Alejano, Trillanes, and some clans doon sa Marawi, mga Moro family,” Aguirre said in press briefing Thursday.

[Translation: Senator Bam Aquino, I’m just saying, he went to Marawi on April 24 and April 28 and they stayed. They had a meeting at Lake View Resort Hotel on May 2. Present were senator Aquino, Ronald Llamas, Alejano, Trillanes, and some clans in Marawi, Moro families.]

"Hindi ko malaman why after they went there, nagkagulo na after about two weeks," he said.

[Translation: I don't understand why after they went there, there was mayhem after two weeks.]

Aguirre added, "Hindi ko alam, basta ang sinabi sa akin, they met with several families there, kasama mga Lucman, kasama family ng Alonto, but I don’t want to connect it, unless there is evidence doon sa money taken, seized," referring to the millions in cash and checks recovered by the Philippine Marines in a Marawi home on June 6.

[Translation: I don't know, they just told me they met with several families there, with the Lucman, the Alonto Family, but I don't want to connect it, unless there is evidence with the money taken, seized.]

He believes the terror incident could be part of a destabilization plot.

During his press conference, Aguirre showed a photo on his phone to reporters to support his allegations.

Ito ‘yung picture nila [This is their picture],” Aguirre said, before hiding his phone.

But later on in the day, Aguirre immediately retracted his remarks, stating the media misquoted him.

"What I said was that there were reports that some opposition senators and leaders who went to Marawi to recruit local politicians and warlords to destabilize the Duterte administration," he said in a statement.

Aguirre also apologized to the Alonto and Lucman families for his confusion.

A copy of the photo Aguirre presented appeared in Zamboanga Vice Governor Ace Cerilles’ Facebook post on June 7, stating that the photo was taken in 2015 at the Iloilo Airport, not in 2017.

The photo was of Cerilles, Llamas, Trillanes, Alejano, and former Pampanga Governor Mark Lapid. Aquino was not in the photo, as well as members of the Lucman and Alonto families.


Aquino, Trillanes: Aguirre is lying

The opposition senators called out Aguirre's remarks, calling them false accusations.

Senator Aquino issued a statement Wednesday clarifying that there was no meeting with the people mentioned by Aguirre.

He added that instead of uniting the country against a common enemy, the attacks are used for political interests.

"It would be prudent for Secretary Aguirre to clarify dates, seek evidence and request for official statements from legitimate government agencies before he makes yet another false accusation," his statement read.

Senator Trillanes, who also denied being in Marawi for the past three years, said to simply check the Senate records for May 2.

"The incompetence of Aguirre is only matched by his stupidity. I would advise him to avoid getting his intel from facebook conspiracy theorists," Trillanes said in a statement.

Liberal Party Chairperson Senator Kiko Pangilinan reacted to Aguirre's statements, saying Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon already denied that the situation in Marawi City has links to the Liberal Party.

"This is pure nonsense and this is the nth time Secretary Aguirre has come up with baseless accusations linking LP to destabilization efforts," he said in a statement.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) previously explained Aquino's trip to Marawi City was for the launch of a Negosyo Center.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said Aguirre's claims are only betraying his own conspiracy to justify jailing opposition figures.

"I'm not a lawyer but somebody should seriously study filing a case against Aguirre for being a fabricator of dangerous lies," Baguilat said in a text message.

Aguirre said he will push for a probe on the connection of the lawmakers' meeting to the terror incident in Marawi City, possibly by intelligence and security agencies.

"I'm going to talk to with my asset, with the informer who was there at the meeting," he said.

Aguirre attacks De Lima

Meanwhile, Aguirre also issued a legal opinion reversing that of his predecessor Senator De Lima allowing the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to enforce fire safety hazards in hotels.

PEZA issued the Fire Safety Permit and Building Permit for Resorts World Manila.  But Aguirre claimed only the Bureau of Fire and Protection has authority to enforce the fire code.

Aguirre said PEZA's jurisdiction over the casino is due to the 2014 legal opinion issued by De Lima.

"Because of that grievous mistake, talagang malaking pagkakamali, hindi na-enforce properly nitong Resorts World ang pagpapatupad ng Fire Code of the Philippines," he said.

[Translation: Because of that grievous mistake, a very big mistake, Resorts World was not able to enforce the Fire Code of the Philippines.]

But de Lima rebutted Aguirre, saying her legal opinion as then Justice Secretary was affirmed by the PEZA law or Republic Act 7916.

De Lima added that the reversal of her legal opinion could be a categorical violation of the law.

"The proper legal options are clear. Either amend RA 7916 that gave PEZA authority in the enforcement of fire safety and prevention regulations in Special Economic Zones, or ensure PEZA's capability to perform its mandated function as specified by Congress in said law," she said.

De Lima said Aguirre should just do his job and stop blaming her.

CNN Philippines' Correspondents AC Nicholls, Joyce Ilas and Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.

This story was updated on June 13, 2017, 3:50 p.m. to include direct quotes from Justice Secretary Aguirre.