MANILA- Senator Grace Poe on Thursday blasted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II after the offiicial tagged minority lawmakers in the Marawi crisis without verification.
Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, said she was “alarmed” by widespread fake news online, made worse by Aguirre who she said acted “like a troll.”
“What makes it worse is when the Justice Secretary himself willingly exploits and amplifies such fake news like a troll without a modicum of effort to at least verify the same just to malign political opponents,” Poe said in a statement.
Aguirre on Wednesday alleged that minority Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, and Ronald Llamas, political adviser of former president Benigno Aquino III, met with the influential Alonto and Lucman clans on May 2 before the crisis in Marawi City broke out.
He said the meeting could have "sparked terroristic acts" in the city and claimed that it may be part of efforts to destabilize the Duterte administration.
Aguirre, who earlier said he had photographs of the purported meeting, even said he would get more details from an “asset” present there.
The photo turned out to be a 2015 image taken at the Iloilo International Airport.
He later recanted his statements and claimed that he was "unfortunately misquoted" by the press, even while his comments were captured on record.
Lawmakers he linked to the Marawi crisis denied Aguirre's claims and slammed the justice chief for making allegations without first vetting his information.
As for Poe, Aguirre had “recklessly” linked several lawmakers and used excuses for his allegations.
“He was at it again when he recklessly linked several of our colleagues in Congress to the Maute group, only to backtrack and offer excuses,” she said.
Poe urged the justice chief to “faithfully do his duty to serve public interest, and that requires siding with the truth.”
She then called for an inquiry into the proliferation of fake news online.
“Congress should look into these pernicious acts and hopefully come up with legislation to address this phenomenon and penalize perpetrators, referring to both authors of fake news as well as sites wittingly hosting the same,” Poe said.