Hell hath no fury like an opposition senator embarrassed on the world stage. And so Senator Antonio Trillanes went on the warpath yesterday, apparently after hearing all the laughter elicited by his appearance on BBC’s HARDtalk show.
Trillanes’ performance during the half-hour interview with HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur was all over social media yesterday. And not in the way the senator or his fellow propagandists from the opposition would have liked.
Unlike so many foreign media outlets that have drunk the anti-Duterte Kool-Aid and who have all too frequently served as platforms for the opposition from which to bash the Philippine president, Sackur and his team did their own research on current issues in this country. And they came up with the sort of questions that made Trillanes —never know for his eloquence or even for his firm grasp of the facts—look like a buffoon on international television.
To be sure, Trillanes gamely tried to defend his opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies. But the senator could only lamely predict that Duterte’s popularity was bound to drop, when asked why he seemed so out of tune with what an overwhelming majority of Filipinos actually feel about their leader.
Pressed by Sackur to explain, Trillanes could only say that “the bulk” of Filipinos don’t really know what’s happening “on the ground.” As if Trillanes, who ceased to be an ordinary Filipino since his election to the elite Senate, knows better than the regular Pinoy on the street what it feels like to have people like him inflicted on them on a daily basis.
Asked about the proliferation of illegal drugs in the Philippines, Trillanes came up with the totally incredible and unsupported claim that the number of drug addicts was a lot less than what Duterte and his officials are saying. He even denied that “shabu”—known abroad as crystal meth—was the drug of choice in the Philippines, saying that marijuana was actually the most abused narcotic in the land.
When Sackur demanded to know if Trillanes was a “democrat,” the senator could only say that he belonged to the Nacionalista Party. “I’m not asking about your political affiliation,” the presenter said, probably wondering if all Filipino senators were as dumb as the person he was interviewing.
It got to the point where Sackur actually made it look painful for all Filipinos to watch the unmasking of Trillanes as a know-nothing opposition leader. I mean, all of us already know what Trillanes is capable of, but we don’t really need HARDtalk to advertise the senator’s incompetence all over the world.
Trillanes probably thought he would score easy points against Duterte in an interview with yet another clueless foreign journalist. Little did he know that Sackur and his team actually wanted to get to the bottom of Trillanes’ opposition to the president.
And the HARDtalk interview succeeded in proving that Trillanes could not even explain why he was opposed to Duterte. And that he could not even present facts that could convince any real journalist who wasn’t already sympathetic to the senator’s cause, like all those writers and pundits from the New York Times, Time magazine and other clearly biased outlets.
HARDtalk and Stephen Sackur tore Trillanes a new one, as they say. And that got the senator really mad afterwards.
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What Trillanes did was to call a press conference. Free at last from the insistent and well-researched questions of Sackur, Trillanes railed against the Duterte administration for being an “epic failure” and for not making good on its promises to the Filipino people after nearly one year in office.
But it all sounded like the senator was trying to make up for his mistake of expecting softball questions requiring him merely to give his usual unthinking answers and walking right into an ambush. There was nothing new in Trillanes’ allegations, except the figurative but unmistakeable smell of his own burnt flesh, which was still bearing the tread-marks of the BBC’s presenter’s questioning.
If the opposition learned anything from Trillanes’ meltdown on international television yesterday, it should be that they cannot send an unprepared, inarticulate fool to represent them in an important forum. Trillanes’ blustery style of making unfounded claims may go over well with a local media that still believes he is one of the most credible critics of the Duterte administration, despite the fact that the citizenry has long tired of his antics; but not every foreign media outlet can be deceived by the fakery that Trillanes is known for.
The opposition clearly has more eloquent champions than the two-time coup plotter who, when at a loss for a reply, has been known to walk out of the hall or to turn off someone else’s microphone. It’s the BBC, for crying out loud; you don’t send a third-string defender to do battle with LeBron James.
I expect Trillanes to keep trying to redeem himself after his meltdown by making even more and more outlandish accusations against Duterte. But I also think even his colleagues in the opposition will be snickering as he tries to salve his wounded pride by becoming more and more bitterly opposed to the president.
But it’s like that time when Trillanes was humiliatingly pulled out of the Peninsula Hotel by his waistband. Try as he might, Trillanes will never make us forget his spectacular debacles.