Two days after showing a photo of an alleged meeting of opposition leaders in Marawi, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Friday denied releasing any photo of any Marawi meeting.
"I did not give, release or send to anyone any picture of any Marawi meeting. The picture of an alleged meeting allegedly taken in 2015 did not (sic) from me," he said in a text message.
It was the latest about-face from the justice secretary after he linked Senators Antonio Trillanes and Bam Aquino, Magdalo Party-list Representative Gary Alejano, and Ronald Llamas, political adviser of former president Benigno Aquino III to an alleged meeting with the Alonto and Lucman clans on May 2, three weeks before the Maute attacks in Marawi.
Minority lawmakers accused by Aguirre have already denied attending any May 2 meeting in Marawi.
Aguirre earlier said the May 2 meeting could have "sparked terroristic acts" in the city.
“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,” he said.
He also claimed that he had a photo as a proof of the meeting, which turned out to be an image taken on Sept. 4, 2015 at the Iloilo International Airport.
Zamboanga del Sur Vice Governor Ace Cerilles, who posted the original photo, said in a Facebook post that the photo was 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.
Aguirre later claimed he was misquoted but apologized 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 Friday, he said Senator Aquino did not attend an alleged meeting of opposition leaders on May 2 but was present in Marawi last May 19.
"Upon further verification, I was able to establish that Sen. Bam Aquino went to Marawi City on May 19, 2017 upon invitation of Gov. Soraya Alonto-Adiong to promote the Go Negosyo Program . He was not present in the alleged meeting of opposition leaders said to have been held in Marawi City on May 2, 2017," he said.
Several lawmakers are now pushing for a congressional hearing to compel Aguirre to explain why he wrongly implicated some members of the political opposition in the Marawi siege.
Former senator Rene Saguisag noted: "Hindi likas na masama yang si Vit. Pero nabarkada e. Kaya iyon, napakasinungaling na rin."