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At Large

We cry for Marawi

12:30 AM June 09, 2017

If I were a reporter covering Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, I would stop attending his press conferences. Because I know my colleagues and I would end up holding a bag of sh_t, when the Wigged One denies the statements he has made, before TV cameras at that, knowing he would be recorded, and blames the “fake news” he had peddled on the media.

What? The reporters made up the words spewing from his mouth?

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Aguirre has apologized to Sen. Bam Aquino, whom he linked to the Marawi crisis simply because the senator was in Marawi a day or so before the fighting broke out. He also alleged that other opposition figures, notably Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Rep. Gary Alejano of the party list Magdalo had met with members of prominent Moro political clans to “plot” the destruction of Marawi. But while “Wiguirre” has likewise apologized to the Lucman and Alonto families for dragging their names into the mess, he has yet to issue an apology to Trillanes and Alejano.

News footage not only recorded Aguirre making his sly insinuations, but also holding up a cell phone that showed, he said, Trillanes, Alejano, former presidential adviser Ronald Llamas in a meeting to plot with the Moro terrorists.

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While apologizing to Aquino, Aguirre supposedly excused his lapse by saying he was so “confused” by many conflicting reports surrounding the events at Marawi. But as Aquino, Trillanes and Alejano have shown, it should have been fairly easy for Aguirre or his staff to check their whereabouts on the dates he alleged they had been in Marawi plotting the Maute/Abu Sayyaf incursion. He could have verified his “facts” before presenting them to the media. Instead, caught in a lie, Aguirre turned around and blamed the media for “misquoting” him. As I said, I’d boycott him from now on, if I were assigned to cover him.

Such stupidity, carelessness and dishonesty from the justice secretary himself, it must be said, is all of a pattern among administration officials. Especially, we might add, officials assigned (and paid by our taxes) to disseminate information, but who instead engage in reckless speculation and accusations and harebrained “symbolism.”

The photo peddled by Aguirre, it turns out, was taken more than a year ago and in a coffee shop at the Iloilo International Airport, according to Ace Cerilles who also appears in the picture.

It should have been enough of a clue to Aguirre that he took the airport photo from a Facebook Duterte fan page, and the allegations about Aquino from other sites created by pro-Duterte trolls. Or is the secretary so enamored of administration propagandists that he takes their pronouncements as absolute truths without bothering to do basic checks before going public? If he still had a bit of honor and honesty in him, Aguirre should follow up his apologies with an offer to resign his post. After all, if we can’t trust his ability to deliver the most basic requirement of truth-telling and honesty, can we expect him to expedite the calls for justice?

Still, we cry for Marawi. We cry with the women—the mothers, especially—who not only need to flee their homes but also expose their children and elderly to unknown dangers. We cry for the spirit of harmony that marked life in Marawi among Muslims and Christians both, as witnessed by the heroic efforts of Muslim employers helping their Christian workers escape by lending them Muslim garb and teaching them basic Maranao phrases.

We cry for the city itself, which I remember from a visit many years ago as a remarkable landscape of mosques and minarets, especially against the backdrop of Lake Lanao. I weep beholding photos of its now-devastated infrastructure, wondering how and when or even if the townsfolk lucky enough to return will be able to rebuild and start anew.

And I weep for the divisions this conflict has reopened, deepened, and allowed to fester. This precisely is what the terrorists wish to happen, and to which our own armed forces have been forcibly conscripted. We cry and pray for peace, for understanding. We cry for Marawi, and for all of us.

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TAGS: Antonio Trillanes IV, At Large, Bam Aquino, destabilization plot, fake news, Gary Alejano, Inquirer Opinion, Marawi siege, Rina Jimenez-David, Ronald llamas, Vitaliano Aguirre
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