MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Wednesday recanted his earlier statement claiming that some lawmakers met with the Lucman and Alonto clans in Marawi City before the attack of Maute terrorists in the city.
"For the record, I did not say there was a meeting between the two families and some lawmakers prior to the Marawi siege. The said meeting never took place and no member of both families ever met with Senator Trillanes, Congressman Alejano, and Ronald Llamas," Aguirre said.
The justice chief earlier 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 Alonto and Lucman clans.
Aguirre, who earlier said he has photographs of the purported meeting, even said he would get more details from an “asset” present there.
But now, Aguirre claimed being "unfortunately misquoted" by the press and that what he meant was that there were some opposition lawmakers who went to Marawi City in an attempt to recruit local politicians to destabilize the Duterte administration.
"What I said was that there were reports that some opposition senators and leaders went to Marawi to recruit local politicians and warlords to destabilize the Duterte administration. I never said that they were successful in recruiting any local politicians and warlords," he said.
The minority lawmakers have issued separate statements refuting Aguirre's claims, which has been branded as "fake news."
Aguirre also apologized for his allegations but only to the Alonto and Lucman families.
"To the Alonto and Lucman families, my sincere apologies for any confusion about this issue," he said.
"There was no intent on my part to implicate the Alonto and Lucman families in the crisis Marawi City is currently facing. Both families have never been and shall never be a part of any plot to destroy or cause harm to anybody or any property," he added.
On Wednesday, he called for an investigation into the alleged May 2 meeting that happened 3 weeks before the siege in Marawi City broke out.
Aguirre reaffirmed Aquino's statement that he visited Marawi City but on May 19 for the launch of the Lanao del Sur Negosyo Center.
Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal "Bombit" Alonto Adiong, Jr. also revealed that Aguirre called him around 1 p.m. 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.
Speaking to ANC late Wednesday afternoon, Adiong said he told Aguirre of the news reports about the latter's allegations.
"Hindi, na-misquote lang ako ng press. Wala akong sinabing ganyan. Iba yung sinabi ko," Adiong recalled Aguirre telling him.
Adiong said he no longer pressed Aguirre for clarification. He however assured that the Alonto and Lucman clans will "double our efforts" in coordinating with the national government to bring back normalcy in the battle-torn Marawi City.
Clashes in Marawi City between government forces and Maute terrorists have left more than 200 people dead since May 23.