Justice chief seeks investigation, saying it could be part of a destabilization plot against the Duterte Administration
MANILA (UPDATE) - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has called for an investigation into a meeting among minority lawmakers and local leaders in Marawi City early last month, saying it could have "sparked terroristic acts" in the city.
Aguirre said Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino, along with Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano and Ronald Llamas, political adviser of former president Benigno Aquino III, met with local leaders in Marawi City on May 2.
The meeting happened 21 days or three weeks before clashes between government troops and Islamist militants started on May 23.
Aguirre said “it’s probable, it’s possible” that the meeting could have “sparked the terroristic acts in Marawi."
“Hindi ko malaman why after they went there, nagkagulo na after two weeks. They met with the people there, they met with several families there,” Aguirre said.
The justice chief said it was possible that the meeting could have “agitated” groups in the city, and could even be part of moves to destabilize the Duterte administration, even as he stressed that facts and evidence were needed to establish this.
Aguirre said the investigation should check if the minority group was responsible for bringing in huge sums of money into Marawi City, in light of the recovery by government forces of P79-million in cash and checks from a stronghold of the terrorist Maute group in the city.
The military is currently checking the authenticity of the recovered bills.
Aguirre, who has photographs of the purported meeting, said he would get more details from an “asset” present there.
ABS-CBN has reached out to Trillanes and Aquino for their response.
On May 25, Aquino shared on his official Twitter account a post by the Department of Trade Industry explaining why he visited Marawi City amid "misinformation" on the circumstances of his trip to the southern city.
The DTI said in its post that Aquino traveled to the city to take part in the launch of a Negosyo Center there.
The Senate minority, dominated by members of the opposition Liberal Party, has several times denied that it was plotting to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
Clashes between government troops and the Islamic State-backed Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups began in Marawi City on May 23 as troops attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader known as the anointed ISIS leader in Southeast Asia.
The military has just released a video showing Hapilon and his cohorts plotting the attack.
More than 200 have died in the firefights while thousands of residents have fled the fighting, now into its second week. -- with a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News