MANILA- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II apparently relied on a 2015 photo in claiming possible links between a supposed meeting among minority lawmakers and local leaders to the ongoing crisis in Marawi City.
Aguirre on Wednesday alleged that Senators Antonio Trillanes and Bam Aquino, as well as Magdalo Party-list Representative Gary Alejano,and Ronald Llamas, political adviser of former president Benigno Aquino III, met with the influential Alonto and Lucman clans in Marawi City on May 2, three before the siege in Marawi City broke out.
He said the meeting could have "sparked terroristic acts" in the city.
The justice chief even claimed that he had photos to support the purported meeting.
Lawmakers tagged by Aguirre have all denied the justice secretary's allegations, branding it as "fake news."
The photo, which Aguirre claimed as proof of his allegations, turns out to be a Sept. 4, 2015 image taken at the Iloilo International Airport.
Aguirre showed the photo on his phone to reporters during a press conference Wednesday.
The photo shows lawmakers Trillanes and Alejano, as well as Llamas, former Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid, and Cerilles seated together around a table.
Zamboanga del Sur Vice Governor Ace Cerilles, who posted the photo, shared a news article on the image and confirmed in a Facebook post that the photo was indeed taken 2 years ago.
"I have said, this picture was taken Sept. 4, 2015 at Iloilo International Airport when I attended the League of the Municipalities of the Philippines Visayas Conference as the National Treasurer. I don't know why they are trying to link this to the #MarawiSiege. Check your facts!" he said.
On Wednesday, Aguirre claimed he was misquoted but apologized only to the Alonto and Lucman families.
"For the record, I did not say there was a meeting between the two families and some lawmakers prior to the Marawi seige. The said meeting never took place and no member of both families ever met with Senator Trillanes, Congressman Alejano, and Ronald Llamas," Aguirre said.
Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal "Bombit" Alonto Adiong, Jr. also revealed that Aguirre phoned him on Wednesday afternoon and told him that the press misquoted his statements.
"Secretary Aguirre called me up and said his statement was misquoted by the press," Adiong told reporters.
Adiong meanwhile assured that they will beef up efforts to return normalcy in battle-torn Marawi City.
Clashes between government troops and the Islamic State-backed Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups began in Marawi City on May 23 and have left over 200 dead.
The firefight prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire island of Mindanao under military rule.