Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Sunday came to the defense of his ally, former President Benigno Aquino III, branding Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as a “political snake.”
In an open letter, Cayetano accused Aquino of merely engaging in a play of words instead of explaining how the country lost control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal to China in 2012.
Cayetano also dared Aquino to come clean and bare the real role of Trillanes, whom he tapped to conduct back channel talks with Beijing, prior to the disastrous decision to unilaterally pull out Philippine ships in the area that allowed China to consolidate its control over the reef.
The foreign affairs secretary raised the issue after Aquino gave the unsolicited advice to Cayetano to be “transparent as his hairstyle” in dealing with China, including plans for possible joint exploration of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.
Trillanes, who was among the leaders of the failed Oakwood mutiny in 2003, made the preposterous and incredible claim that his mission to China was a resounding success.
He boasted that before his mission, some 80 to 100 Chinese ships were in the vicinity of the shoal but after three months of negotiations only three ships remained.
What Trillanes did not say, or would not dare admit, is that we lost the Scarborough Shoal to Beijing when the Aquino administration committed the monumental blunder of withdrawing all the Philippine vessels from the disputed area, practically ceding control to the Chinese.
Whether 80 or just one Chinese ship remained after Trillanes’ supposed successful back channel talks, the result would still be disastrous to the Philippine claim over the disputed territory.
Trillanes’ glowing, almost heroic, portrayal of his role in the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012 loses all luster when viewed from the perspective of other officials of the Aquino administration.
In fact, a newspaper quoted Aquino’s Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as saying Trillanes’ claim that his intercession helped clear Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal of Chinese vessels was wrong.
Aquino’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario even complained that “while back-channeling has its purpose, it’s doing more harm than good.”
What is even more telling are the details in the notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady about a meeting with Trillanes in Beijing that then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile exposed in a confrontation with the former military rebel.
According to Enrile, the note said the Chinese wanted the Philippines to “tone down the rhetoric” on its incursion into Panatag Shoal; that Trillanes suspected that the United States was involved in creating tension and that Del Rosario was “committing treason.”
Likewise, Enrile said according to Brady’s notes, Trillanes asked an influential businessman and a close friend of Del Rosario to advise the secretary “to keep quiet, to quiet down” and that the senator said “no one cares about Panatag Shoal in the Philippines.”
Instead of confronting Enrile directly to answer his accusations, Trillanes walked out of the Senate session hall, prompting the grizzled lawmaker to call him a “coward.”
Trillanes’ actuations also drew a sharp rebuke from former President Joseph Estrada.
“This guy wants to get the attention of the Filipino people. He has not done anything in the Senate. So just to ingratiate himself with the President, he volunteered. The President did not even ask him to go to China but he volunteered himself,” Estrada was quoted in the reports as saying.
Estrada noted while Trillanes ran for the Senate under the banner of the Genuine Opposition, he jumped ship to the Nacionalista Party after winning and later allied with the Liberal Party when it came to power. He said he regretted the decision to endorse Trillanes’ candidacy in the 2007 elections.
After the spat with Enrile, Trillanes bolted the majority and actively involved himself in the plot to oust the former as Senate president. This was despite the fact that it was Enrile who interceded to free him from jail and enable him to perform his duties as a senator.
Apparently, it is Trillanes who speaks with a forked tongue and who exhibits a treacherous bite—a decidedly reptilian trait.
He should remember the old Filipino saying: “When you point an accusing finger, three fingers point back at you.”