“It is not his credibility at stake. It’s the credibility of the institution.”
This is what Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo stressed on Tuesday, June 13, as she criticized Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II over his recent remarks linking opposition senators to the Marawi crisis.
She warned that the public’s trust in the institution will be lost if the justice secretary continues to make “false accusations.”
“We have a Department of Justice whose head is saying things that are not true. I think it’s scary because it’s the Department of Justice that is supposed to lead in making sure justice will prevail over all of us,” Robredo told reporters in Batangas.
Last week, the justice secretary came under fire after using an old photo and insinuating that several opposition lawmakers met with local prominent clans — whom he identified as Alonto and Lucman — weeks before the clash between the government troopers and Maute terrorist group erupted on May 23 in Marawi City.
Aguirre said that there is a possibility that the meeting could have “sparked the terroristic acts,” tagging Senators Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano and former Aquino administration presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas,
He also suggested that the Marawi incident could be part of destabilization plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.
Later, however, Aguirre, retracted his remarks, claiming that the media “misquoted” him and apologized to the Alonto and Lucman families.
Aguirre also cleared Aquino from his alleged involvement with the Marawi clash after the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) verified that Aquino was in Marawi for a GoNegosyo event.
Fort their part, Trillanes and Alejano both refuted Aguirre’s accusations, saying that the Senate and House records can verify they were not in Marawi City last month. Likewise, reporters covering the event denied that they misquoted the justice secretary in their news reports.
Despite the criticism, Aguirre still ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) “to conduct [an] 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.”
He also ordered the filing of “appropriate cases against those who may be found liable” if evidence warrants.
On Monday, June 12, Liberal Party (LP) President Sen. Francis Pangilinan reiterated that the opposition, led by LP, is behind destabilization attempts against the government.
During that day, vocal critics of the Duterte administration — among whom include Robredo, Aquino, Trillanes, and Alejano — attended the “Defend Democracy Summit” held at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City.
“We are in a democracy. It does not mean that whenever we have criticisms, or we don’t agree with some of the administration’s policies, there is already destabilization,” Pangilinan told reporters.
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