For once, I’d love to hear from Senator Antonio Trillanes. But so far, the perpetually bloviating senator hasn’t, to my knowledge, uttered a peep about his latest adventure.
Trillanes has gone to the United States to seek a meeting with Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida), some think tanks, lobbyists and alleged Company types, in a supposed bid to pressure President Donald Trump to skip the Manila leg of his visit to Southeast Asia next month. This is a serious charge, levelled by purportedly highly-placed, reliable sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
That Trillanes met Rubio is no longer in question. The Florida senator, who lost to Trump in the Republican primaries in the run-up to the last US presidential elections, has gone on social media to post pictures of him and his Philippine counterpart during the latter’s visit.
Rubio, who also heads the powerful US Senate foreign relations committee, is a known critic of the Duterte administration. Last May, Rubio filed a bill seeking to severely restrict the sale of firearms to the Philippines, citing reported doubts about President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to the upholding of human rights.
Rubio’s co-author was the senior Democrat on the committee, Senator Ben Cardin. Cardin last year opposed the planned sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the PNP, which prompted the US State Department to stop the transaction and which so angered Duterte that he said he would procure arms for Philippine security forces elsewhere.
The thing is, Trillanes himself has not been making his usual noises about his current trip. And this is a senator who only recently brought a team of Manila media workers with him to Singapore to witness him going up to a bank teller’s counter in a strange bid to prove that he had no hidden bank accounts abroad.
Trillanes is also known to deliver privilege speeches to empty Senate session halls, which is are duly and faithfully reported in the press the following day. But the senator, who must know that he is skating on thin legal and diplomatic ice on his current trip, has not said a word in public since he was seen leaving for Los Angeles on board a Philippine Airlines flight.
If it is true that Trillanes is exporting his message of destabilization against Duterte to the US and attempting to convince key officials to pressure Trump into not visiting the Philippines, the senator may be setting himself up for a not-so-warm welcome upon his return. No less than National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon told me in an interview yesterday that the senator may have really “crossed the line” this time.
Trillanes’ latest sojourn to a country that he has visited a lot recently reminds me of the time when he became the self-styled “back-channel” negotiator of then President Noynoy Aquino to China. According to then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who questioned Trillanes’ 16 trips to Beijing, the senator effectively and single-handedly sabotaged regular diplomatic efforts to repair relations between China and the Philippines—and perhaps enriched himself in the process.
So this is not really the first time that Trillanes has dabbled in unofficial, backdoor diplomacy. Except that this time, the senator is really out to smear the Philippine government in the eyes of officials of an important ally instead of working to improve ties.
(If Trillanes or any of his fans attempt to tell us that he is actually just shopping for clothes again at Macy’s or asking US officials and those supposed shadowy Central Intelligence Agency and lobbyist types to support Duterte, they should be laughed out of town. In the case of Trillanes, perhaps he should stay out of town for good.)
The truth is, Trillanes has never stopped working to bring down legitimate Philippine administrations that did not free him from jail. Only this time, he no longer incites his fellow soldiers to take up arms against civilian authority—what he wants to do is to undermine government by attempting to influence allies like Trump to abandon Duterte.
Of course, these are just my thoughts while I wait for Trillanes to tell all of us what he’s really been up to in the US. And if he’s once again been up to his old skulduggery, minus the high-powered firearms and the wads of cash from coup financiers, I’ll be waiting, as well, for him to return and face the consequences of his latest attempt at regime change.
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Speaking of the old skulduggery, the Commission on Human Rights has declared that it wants to find out if the armed forces followed the so-called rules of engagement when it killed the two top leaders of the Marawi City uprising, Isnilon Hapilon, the would-be emir of the first Islamic State caliphate in Southeast Asia, and his sidekick, Omarkhayyam Maute. I agree that this should be done, but only if the CHR will also look into how the brutal IS-inspired terrorist-occupiers of Marawi followed the same rules.
And you wonder why some people want to slash CHR’s budget to nothing or to abolish it altogether. CHR’s Chito Gascon is really a piece of work—or at the very least a clone of Trillanes, using his government position (and taxpayers’ money) to commit overtly traitorous acts.