- Published on Thursday, 20 September 2012 00:00
- Written by EVANGELINE DE VERA
By A Web design Company
SEN. Antonio Trillanes IV yesterday bolted from the Senate majority after trading barbs with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile over the division of the province of Camarines Sur, and which eventually led to discussions over Trillanes’ acting as back channel in talks with China.
This developed as Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said his department merely executes the foreign policy of President Aquino.
“We will not dignify those who are working to divide us. There must be one policy and one team in promoting our national interest in the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a statement.
At the Senate, Trillanes delivered a privilege speech accusing Enrile of railroading a bill seeking to divide the province of Camarines into three districts, and said he has lost confidence in the Senate president. He walked out of the session hall as Enrile started to answer his allegations and raised the issue of backchannel talks with China, saying Enrile could not discuss sensitive information on foreign relations and national security, as well as Trillanes’ trips to China.
“The Senate President may reveal sensitive information pertaining to foreign relations and national security and I believe it is out of order,” Trillanes told Senate President pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada when he was asked what his point of order was.
Trillanes’ reply elicited a tart reaction from Enrile. “Do not teach me about parliamentary procedure. I’m not answerable to anybody about what I say in this hall.”
“He cannot take the heat. He’s a coward,” Enrile said as Trillanes walked out.
Enrile questioned Trillanes’ role in conducting backdoor negotiations with Chinese officials, and his calling Del Rosario a “treasonous traitor” for a series of actions that supposedly intensified rather than eased the tension between the two countries in the standoff over Scarborough shoal, which the Philippines calls Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc, that started in April.
Reading the notes of Ambassador to China Sonia Brady about her meeting with Trillanes and Del Rosario last August 17, Enrile brushed aside Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who raised the issue of possible disclosure of matters which may involve national security.
Instead, Enrile turned the tables on Trillanes, saying the latter was the one who was trading national secrets to Chinese officials, in effect compromising the country’s sovereignty.
He said there was no official record of Trillanes’ meetings with the Chinese officials. Trillanes earlier claimed that his role in the negotiation was to ease tension between the two neighboring countries, something which the DFA failed to do by invoking its alliance with the United States and in trying to internationalize the issue, rather than resolve it bilaterally, as was the tack being employed by China.
“Pilipino ba yan, makabayan ba yan? My gosh, what kind of senator is this?” Enrile said. He went on to question who might have been Trillanes’ teacher at the Philippine Military Academy.
Brady’s notes, which were dated August 2012 or before she was returned to the country after suffering a stroke late last month, further said Trillanes tried to placate the Chinese by insisting that the US already set aside its alliance with the Philippines.
In defending Del Rosario, Enrile said Trillanes’ acts of clandestinely meeting with the Chinese bespoke more of his treasonous nature than Del Rosario’s, adding Trillanes’ actions might just be a smokescreen for news reports that unmasked him as special envoy to China.
“This is a senator of the Republic calling our secretary a treasonous person in a foreign land. He does not even know when treason arises,” he said.
Brady’s notes also indicated that Trillanes requested that no notes be taken and what the Chinese wanted was to tone down the rhetoric. “He met the night before with a senior official Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi,” said Enrile, quoting Brady’s August 17 notes.
At one point, Enrile said Trillanes offered to “give an alternative channel” to the Chinese side at a time when Del Rosario was deemed to have taken a very belligerent stance towards Beijing.
In short, Enrile said, a senator of the land like Trillanes had volunteered an unprecedented role as “channel” for the President’s foreign policy.
In his speech that triggered the bitter exchange between the two senators, Trillanes accused Enrile of being a lackey of former President Arroyo, who reportedly even personally called him up to speed up the measure.
“With this totally unexpected twist, everything seemed to fall into place. Now, there remain only two possibilities -- that our Senate President is deeply indebted to GMA, or that he is a GMA lackey. Either way, I have lost trust, faith and confidence in Senator Enrile’s capability to lead the Senate along the path consistent with the reform agenda that I espouse,” he said.
Enrile denied talking to Arroyo about the bill.
On his trips to China, Trillanes claimed these were authorized by President Aquino, and said he did not need to get authorization from Enrile for his travel abroad.
Enrile, in an interview with GMA 7 news program, was asked what made him disclose Brady’s notes. He said, “Inaatake ang katauhan ko.”
He said the notes were taken by Brady on August 17, after talking with Trillanes in Beijing.
He said Trillanes should have told the embassy he was coming so embassy personnel could accompany him and get records of discussions.
On Trillanes’ authority to hold back channel negotiations, Enrile said he asked Aquino it about during a Cabinet meeting where Trillanes was also present, and was told by the President, “I allowed him to go because he suggested backchanneling negotiations.”
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Trillanes “approached” Aquino at the height of tension between China and the Philippines, proposing some ideas on how to move talks with China forward, particularly through backdoor talks.
He said the President then “authorized” Trillanes, stressing the need to “keep our options open.”
“The purpose of the President is really to keep all the options open. So it seems like there were minor successes coming from the backchanneling of Senator Trillanes,” he said.
He also said Aquino has asked Trillanes and Del Rosario to refrain from commenting further on the backchanneling efforts.
“What I know is that the President will speak to Senator Trillanes and also he has spoken to Secretary Del Rosario. It looks nice for the press to see two officials, high government officials, engage in discussions in media. But the President has asked both of them to refrain from making further statements until he speaks to them. He spoke to Secretary Del Rosario. He intends to speak to Senator Trillanes,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor