Trillanes’ trap

It’s just dinner, for crying out loud. It’s not the end of the Yellow world as we know it.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who claim to be allies of Vice President Leni Robredo are not actually preventing her from becoming a productive member of government, instead of remaining just a perennial critic supported by taxpayers’ money. Their response to the reported invitation by President Rodrigo Duterte for Robredo to have dinner in Malacañan Palace is a perfect example of the refusal of her supporters to even consider an end to the debilitating and energy-sapping partisan squabbling that has been the hallmark of Philippine politics for ages.

Senator Antonio Trillanes, for instance, urged Robredo not to break bread with Duterte, warning that this could be a “trap.” Trillanes said that the invitation could end up like Robredo’s joining the Duterte Cabinet, which resulted in the vice president’s quitting after she was told to stop attending meetings in Malacañang.

But to me, Trillanes’ warning sounds more like a demand for Robredo to remain a thorn on Duterte’s side, just like he is, until the end of his term. In Trillanes’ twisted world, there can be no peace with Duterte, even if the entire country goes to hell.

The senator’s position is actually classic Yellow, an ideology which neatly divides the country into those who have bought into the worldview of the Aquino family and its various hangers-on and those who haven’t, who are (in their view) beyond political salvation. In other words, Trillanes is testing Robredo’s faith in the somos o no somos policy of the Yellows—and her decision to accept or to decline a simple dinner invitation could be used as a barometer of her fidelity to the cause.

Duterte, of course, is nothing if not the antithesis of Yellow political practice. While it is true that he and Robredo have had a very public falling out over the vice president’s decision to become the president’s chief critic and de facto leader of the opposition even within the Cabinet, he is still apparently willing to seek a common ground and to work for a higher purpose with her, thus the dinner invitation.

I have time and again criticized Robredo’s various actions since she assumed office. I was among those who applauded her decision to leave the Cabinet, since she cannot seem to decide if she wants to be a government critic or a partner of the administration in working towards its goals.

I don’t think Robredo will suddenly become a “Dutertard” after a mere dinner, is what I mean. But I understand that, as president, Duterte must still try to convince Robredo that they should work again together if they both want the country to move forward.

However, I see no trap being laid for Robredo, who is after all only being asked to have dinner and not being offered marriage by the president. (That salty joke by Duterte about Robredo marrying him if she wants power is just another of those zingers we’ve come to expect from the President—even the Yellows don’t fall for those throwaway lines anymore.)

I only see an offer of friendship and perhaps a political rapprochement between the top two officials of the land, who are, while estranged, both facing impeachment charges. The choice of accepting the offer of mending fences is really Robredo’s.

Robredo can succumb to the Yellows’ call of remaining Duterte’s chief critic and salivating successor in office, refusing to share anything with him, not even a simple meal. Or she can act like she can actually go beyond politics and listen to what the President wants to say this time, after the breakup.

Now, it would be different if Trillanes was invited to sup in Malacañang. If Duterte’s claims of the senator’s exploits as a former putschist are at all true, the Presidential Security Group should keep close watch on the palace silverware the moment Trillanes sits down at the table.

* * *

Robredo has not said yes or no to dinner with Duterte. But she has shown signs that she may be soon be easing up on the criticism, if her radio interview with broadcaster Ted Failon yesterday is any indication.

For the first time, Robredo spoke directly about the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano against Duterte, saying that the move will only distract the government from its job. Of course, Robredo also said in the same breath that impeaching her would also have the same effect, but that was really to be expected.

And Robredo still lied when she told Failon that she never said that the 7,000 deaths she mentioned in a videotaped speech of hers played back recently at a United Nations-sponsored forum were not drug-related. She was, after all, giving a speech at an anti-narcotics forum of the UN; saying that she meant “extrajudicial killings” instead of drug-related deaths is just making too fine a distinction.

Robredo also insisted that she had no regrets in making the videotaped speech, which could form the basis of a new and more substantial impeachment complaint against her when Congress reopens in May. And she wished that Duterte, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, would enjoy good health and have a successful presidency.

But she didn’t say anything about the dinner. Maybe she wants to take it really slow and have coffee and an informal chat with Duterte first—assuming the Yellows backing her will allow even that.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Vice President Leni Robredo , Senator Antonio Trillanes , Rep. Gary Alejano
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