Aguirre willing to cooperate if Senate calls for probe on fake news

MANILA-- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Sunday that he is willing to attend a Senate inquiry as proposed by Senator Grace Poe to call for a probe into the proliferation of fake news.

Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, said she was alarmed by the spread of fake news and cited the recent controversy involving Aguirre, who implicated members of the political opposition, including two senators, in the conflict in Marawi City.

Of course! Aguirre said in a text message sent to reporters when asked if he will attend once summoned to appear before a Senate hearing into his claims.

In the proposed hearing, Poe said Aguirre's sources of information, as well as the resources of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate such claims, will be looked into.

Aguirre also stood by his order for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to build up a case against members of the political opposition due to their alleged involvement in destabilization plots against the Duterte administration.

Aguirre rejected the call of Liberal Party to scrap his order to NBI.

"I will be remiss in my duty if I have not issued that order," he said in a text message.

The LP, in a statement last Saturday, demanded Department Order 385 be revoked and for Aguirre to stop the political harassment of members of Congress and the opposition, even as we continue to study our legal options against him.

Aguirre stressed that investigating allegations or information involving criminal offenses is part of the mandate of the DOJ and NBI.

In Department Order No. 385 issued last week, the DOJ chief directed the NBI to probe the alleged meeting of some opposition lawmakers prior to the terror attacks in Marawi City perpetrated by the Maute group which he described as possibly a part of the destabilization plot against the administration.

He specifically instructed NBI Director Dante Gierran to investigate the supposed link of "some senators and other opposition leaders" to the alleged destabilization plot.

The order came after Aguirre bared information that members of the opposition, including the LP's Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, went to Marawi City last May 2 to meet with local clan leaders.

Aguirre later cleared Aquino and personally apologized to the senator for his "confusion" on several information he received.

"Upon further verification, I was able to establish that Sen. Bam Aquino went to Marawi City on May 19, 2017 upon invitation of Governor 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," Aguirre said in a statement.

Aguirre said that the information as well as the photo showing the alleged meeting -- which turned out to be from a fake news item -- did not come from him.

"I'm not spreading fake news. The photo did not come from me and the information was just given to me so I am having it investigated. 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 come from me," he explained.

In a statement issued on Friday, the DOJ said: What he did was to swiftly flashed one picture on his cellular phone, but he did not allow the media to take pictures of the same precisely because the same is pending verification.

For everyone's clarification, Justice Secretary would like to reiterate that during the press conference on Wednesday, June 07, 2017, he told the media that the information he got were very raw and he wanted to verify and investigate further, said the DOJ.

He repeatedly stated that he does not want to speculate pending the investigation. Only that the media didn't mention his repeated precautions that he is yet to fully verify the truth of the reported incident, the DOJ insisted.

Meanwhile, the Justice and Court Reporters Association (JUCRA) issued a statement over Aguirre's earlier statements that he was misquoted during his June 7 press conference where he dragged several opposition lawmakers into the Marawi siege.

As recorded in our videos and voice recorder and even in our Facebook Live coverages, we quoted Sec. Aguirre verbatim and only reported the facts to our viewers and readers -- including the fact that he showed a photo from his mobile phone supposedly showing the meeting between the senators and Muslim clans in Marawi last May 2, read the statement.

As responsible journalists, we also took the opportunity to perform our duty of verifying and counter-checking the information and photo that the Secretary has presented during the briefing, and found that several details and information were wrong, it added.

We remain committed to our role as a watchdog, especially in these times when 'fake news' have been spreading in social media and the truth is becoming scarce, it assured.

Source: Philippines News Agency