WATCH | Bam Aquino gets apology, clarification from Aguirre

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Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV in an earlier Senate hearing: seeks NBI probe of hacking (Senate file photo)

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has apologized to Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV for linking him to the Marawi crisis but the lawmaker expects the Cabinet official to do so publicly and clarify the matter once and for all.

Aquino did say Aguirre promised to do so in a phone conversation arranged by Senator Loren Legarda during a social event Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, Aguirre ignited a firestorm of controversy when he claimed Aquino, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Representative Gary Alejano and former President Benigno Aquino III’s political adviser Roland Llamas supposedly met with members of the prominent Alonto and Lucman clans of Marawi a couple of weeks before fighting broke out between government forces and the Maute group.

Hindi ko malaman (I don’t know) why after they went there nagkagulo na (violence broke out),” Aguirre said, adding he had asked for an investigation into the matter.

But only hours later, Aguirre issued a statement accusing reporters of misquoting him and apologizing to the Alonto and Lucman families. Recordings, however, show media accurately reported what he said.

Recalling their phone conversation, Aquino said Aguirre claimed to have been “confused” by the deluge of reports he had been receiving.

But the senator said Aguirre could easily have checked if he was, indeed, in Marawi on April 24, 28 and May 2 as the Justice chief claimed, instead of going public with his claims.

“We expect more from you,” Aquino said even as he pointed out that Aguirre’s “height of irresponsibility” also endangered the persons he had implicated in the Marawi crisis because people who believe the accusations might take it upon themselves to do them harm.

Aquino said he was also bothered that, in the midst of the emergency in Marawi, Aguirre was preoccupied with scoring points against perceived opponents of the administration.

This is why, he said, it would not be enough for Aguirre to merely take back what he said.

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