Enrile-Trillanes fight over talks with China

Ayee Macaraig

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'This guy is a fraud,' Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile says, referring to Sen Antonio Trillanes IV. 'This phantom of the opera in Philippine politics.'

'LACKEY' VS 'NOVATO.' Enrile and Trillanes trade barbs over Camarines Sur and China. Screenshot from Senate livestream

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen Antonio Trillanes IV lashed out against each other over China and the division of Camarines Sur.

Trillanes suddenly took to the floor on Wednesday, September 19, and announced that he is bolting the Senate majority coalition after losing trust in Enrile’s leadership.

In a privilege speech, Trillanes accused Enrile of gerrymandering and being a lackey of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by pushing for the division of Camarines Sur. Trillanes recalled that in a Senate caucus held last July 24, Enrile pressured senators to support the division of the province.

Kasi po, ang kalakaran talaga dito ay: “Kung gusto ko, isasagasa ko; kung ayaw ko, uupuan ko,” Trillanes said, mocking Enrile’s campaign slogan. (Because the policy here really is: ‘If I want to, I will railroad. If I don’t want to, I will sit on a bill)

“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.”

The division of the district is supposed to benefit Arroyo’s son and incumbent Rep Dato Arroyo.

Enrile was quick to respond. He immediately took the podium but instead of discussing Camarines Sur, the Senate President said at issue was Trillanes’ back-door negotiations with China over Manila’s territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

“Somebody in this chamber was in the headlines for meddling in foreign affairs,” Enrile said in reference to Trillanes. “Probably this is a way to camouflage it.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday reported that Trillanes was accusing Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario of sabotaging his “back-channel efforts” to find a diplomatic solution to the problem with China over the South China Sea.

The Senate President even reminded Trillanes, “I was the one who took you out of the rut when you were in prison in Camp Crame. I went out of the way to talk to people so you can get back here in the Senate and I guaranteed your presence here, but I’m not saying this because I don’t want you to owe any favor to me. I’m just putting that into record to show the character of each one of us here.”

Enrile threatened to read what he said were notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady about a meeting with Trillanes in Beijing. At this point, Trillanes said Enrile was being out of order because the notes concerned sensitive information on foreign relations and security. 

Trillanes walks out 

Trillanes then walked out of the Senate session hall. 

“He cannot take the heat. He’s a coward,” Enrile declared. 

The Senate President went on to read the notes into the record. The notes were dated August 17, 2012. Enrile said Brady’s notes showed the following:

  • Trillanes asked Brady not to take down notes on the meeting
  • Trillanes met with a senior Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official the night before [his meeting with Brady] 
  • Trillanes called Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario a traitor and said he committed treason
  • Trillanes secretly met with Chinese officials about Scarborough Shoal and the West Philippine Sea. (Enrile said the meetings numbered 16.) 
  • President Aquino did not know the arrangements Trillanes made with the Chinese 
  • Trillanes said in the Philippines, “No one cares about Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal” 
  • Trillanes said China never intended to put up a station in the Scarborough Shoal 
  • Trillanes told Chinese officials the Philippines cannot enforce its coastal protection
  • Trillanes said the Philippines should have lobbied with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as China did
  • Trillanes claimed he resolved the problem with Philippine banana exports to China
  • Trillanes insisted on bilateral talks with China when the Cabinet wanted a multilateral approach

Enrile said of Trillanes, “That’s why he’s not here because I want to ask him. My God, this guy is a fraud… He is supposed to be a trained military man but he does not know anything about military strategy.”

Trillanes was a Navy officer before plotting coups against the Arroyo administration and eventually being elected senator in 2007. Enrile, 88, was former defense chief during the Martial Law years, and a long-time lawmaker. 

Incidentally, Trillanes, 41, is the youngest senator while 88-year-old Enrile is the oldest of the lawmakers. 

Enrile said that in Cabinet meetings on China, Trillanes was the laughingstock because of his statements but the Senate President then thought it best not to tell Trillanes about this. 

At some points, Enrile stopped to exclaim, “My God, what kind of a senator is this?”

At the end of his reading, Enrile said, “I read the notes of Ambassador Brady to unmask this phantom of the opera in Philippine politics.”

Enrile’s ‘monumental blunders’ 

In a statement on September 24, Trillanes said Enrile made “monumental blunders” in exposing the so-called Brady notes. 

“First, JPE wrongly assumed that Ambassador Sonia Brady purportedly took those notes down while I was meeting with the Chinese officials. For the record, she was never present in any of the backchannel talks conducted,” Trillanes said.  

Trillanes said during the private meeting with Brady on August 17, he and a member of his staff were accompanied by Philippine Consul Evangeline Ong Jimenez-Ducrocq but there were no Chinese officials present. Trillanes said he arranged for the meeting because Brady was then new to the embassy and he wanted to brief her about the backchannel talks. 

“So if these Brady Notes indeed exist, this is where she or Consul Jimenez-Ducrocq probably wrote it. Now, I absolutely don’t see anything wrong about conducting a briefing and coordinating with Ambassador Brady,” Trillanes said.

“Second, JPE brazenly exposed state secrets just to spite me and it eventually blew up on his face, Lastly, he unwittingly pointed to the DFA as the only possible source of those classified documents,” Trillanes added.

Trillanes reiterated that Enrile and the so-called Brady notes took his statements out of context and many of his points were lost in translation because only bullet points were written and not his actual words. 

He again called on Enrile to release the actual document in public.

Trillanes said, “I can defend the statements I make.” 

'FRAUD, COWARD.' Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile blasts Senator Trillanes after he accused him of being an Arroyo lackey. Enrile said Trillanes was a coward for walking out. Screenshot from Senate livestream

‘Brady’s notes’

Below are the notes of Brady in full, as read by Enrile verbatim into the Senate record. Enrile said he got an official copy of Brady’s notes. The entries in italics are Enrile’s comments on the notes:

1)   “Senator Trillanes requested that no notes be taken.”

2)   “What the Chinese want is to tone down the rhetoric. He met the night before with senior Chinese MFA officials, Ministry of Foreign Affairs”

3)   “Senator was initially approached by Executive Secretary”

4)   “When he got involved, it was in the height of the problem. He had to find out what was happening so he tried to see whether this was a move of the Americans. He was suspecting the Americans were involved in the conflict. He ascertained that they do not want any conflict especially in an election year.”

“I think the word ‘they’ there refers to the Chinese.”

5)    “On Secretary del Rosario, US has already let him go, binitiwan na siya, this is the note of Brady. In the July meeting, Hillary Clinton did not speak up for us. Secretary Del Rosario is committing treason.”

“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.”

6)   “We are internationalizing the issue because of Secretary del Rosario. This is his move.”

7)   “There was never any negotiation between the Chinese and the Americans, just a meeting with Kurt Campbell. Mr Campbell was not a negotiator. Besides, Secretary del Rosario was not there.”

[Editor’s note: Campbell is the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.]

8) “The arrangement being looked at by the senator, meaning Senator Trillanes, was one side would leave first then the other side then the next, etc. They were talking about the manner of evacuating the Scarborough. He then received a call from PNoy [Philippine President Benigno Aquino III], saying why are the Chinese still there when there was an agreement for simultaneous withdrawal. He thought to himself, ‘This is not the arrangement.’ He was protecting the Chinese.” 

“He asked Manny V Pangilinan to ask Secretary Del Rosario to keep quiet, to quiet down. This has now happened. The two go a long way back because it was also Secretary del Rosario who introduced Mr Pangilinan to the Indonesian businessman. During the days of the PLDT, Secretary Del Rosario confronted the Yuchengco group/shareholders and threatened them.”

“This is a senator talking aback against a Cabinet member.”

9) “The 2+2 meeting in the US, Mr Pangilinan was paying a lobby group to get that meeting.”

10) “The 2+2 meeting, Mr Pangilinan was paying a lobby group to get that meeting.”

“I don’t know what that 2+2 meeting was all about. We thought all along it was the accord of the US.” 

[Editor’s note: The 2+2 meeting was a meeting between del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and their US counterparts, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Washington DC last April 30, 2012.]

11) “DFA was the one who kept releasing press articles. Now the press is turning their back on Secretary Del Rosario. In this way, he is being marginalized. The release of the picture of a man planting flag on Panatag is from the 1980s so this was rehashed. The Hasa-Hasa grounding of the Chinese frigate, there was supposed to be no press release but when the DFA got hold of it, it released it to the media. The ramming was also an incident that was released to the press.”

“Trillanes wanted everything that was happening in Scarborough to be made secret so it will protect the interest of the Chinese.“

12) “Mr Pangilinan and Secretary Del Rosario wanted to create an event.”

He was accusing these two of manipulating a war condition to divert attention from the Reed Bank.”

“The findings there were not substantial so Mr Pangilinan asked the Chinese group not to release the findings. They needed time to ensure they can recover their investment, first sell off to another buyer.”

“Imagine what a senator [said], nakakahiya.”

13) “[They] were alarmist in the Palace meeting, when Sec Del Rosario presented the invasion of Luzon.”

“I was there. This is a total falsehood.”

“So nabilog ang ulo ng lahat. You saw this in the meeting, even Senate President Enrile wanted to cut relations.”

“This is very alarmist. This gentleman is foisting falsehood. I was there. President Aquino was in front of me and the secretary of foreign affairs, poor secretary of foreign affairs who was being pilloried by this novato in foreign relations, accusing him of not knowing his job. And I said I support the position of the Department of Foreign Affairs. We should involve our allies and friends in this discussion because we cannot handle the Chinese on a bilateral basis but he was insisting on a one-on-one dealings with China. What bargaining position do we have? He is supposed to be a trained military mind but he does not know anything about military strategy.”

14) “The senator was inquiring, this is Brady talking, on which official could visit China because the Chinese side were angry with PNoy, they suggested his kalaban, the Vice President.” 

“Imagine intriguing between the President and the Vice President?”

“Senator thought perhaps Mar Roxas na lang, the Chinese side said an official could meet Chinese Vice President.”

15) “In Panatag Shoal, there was never a problem in their presence, from 66 boats, this was reduced to 3. The Chinese side said they will eventually take out the rope. They may eventually have given time.”

16) “This is his 12th, according to Mrs Brady, that was his 12th meeting with the Chinese. Sen Trillanes has been quietly, secretly, clandestinely meeting with the Chinese about the Scarborough and the West Philippine Sea. PNoy called the senator when he saw the Chinese did not keep their word to withdraw. PNoy did not know of the arrangements being made by the senator.”

“Imagine talking to a potential enemy of this country 16 times. What did he discuss with these people? Who initiated the discussion? Did he or did they? Did they pay for his trip to Beijing? He should answer. That’s why he could not be here because I’m going to ask him. My god, this guy is a fraud.”

17) “PNoy did not know that talks were suspended with the Chinese for 2 weeks.”

18) “PNoy gave his clearance to pursue initiatives on back-channel talks.”

“This is his representation to Mrs Brady.”

19) “In the Philippines, no one cares about Panatag Shoal. He said to Mrs Brady, sa Pilipinas, walang may gusto na sa atin ang Panatag, ang Scarborough Shoal.”

“Iyan ang sinasabi niya. Pilipino ba iyan? Makabayan ba iyan? My God, what kind of a senator is this? China was never going to put up a station there, ‘yun ang sinabi niya, sinabi ni Trillanes, he was speaking for China. If China wanted to, they would have done so already. That was his position. He did not realize that the whole China Sea is being claimed by China and yet he claims to be an expert in international law, expert in security, expert in geopolitical struggle, expert in foreign relations?” 

[Editor’s note: On September 25, Trillanes told Rappler that this paricular statement was taken out of context. He said what he told Brady was that at the height of tensions, the Chinese boycotted Philippine products and some Filipinos in China experienced poor treatment. Trillanes said that what he meant was in comparison, in the Philippines, Filipinos were acting “business as usual” and were not harassing Chrinese citizens.

“The way it came out was we did not care about the issue. I said we were more positive than the Chinese public but it was in no way meant to diminish our claim to Panatag Shoal,” Trillanes said.] 

20) “About Sansha City and the garrison, senator meaning Trillanes said, we also have garrison in KIG.” 

“I think this is Kalayaan Island Group. Garrison ba iyon? Ako nagpalagay nung airstrip doon para mabigyan natin ng ayuda ang ating mga sundalo doon pero hindi garrison iyon. Hindi kagaya nu’ng sinusuportahan niya na bansa na merong mga fortification doon. Para sa kanya hindi fortification iyon, laruan lang iyon. Ewan ko sinong nagturo sa kanya sa Philippine Military Academy.”  

“Besides this is for their domestic audience.”

“Domestic audience daw pero kinukuha nila ang lugar natin pero sa kanya, parte lang ng pulitika ng Tsina ito. The Chinese could have attacked our garrison if they wanted to. What in my military mind?

“We also have a sunken ship in the area which we did on purpose.”

“Itong pinagmamalaki niya. Siguro baka siya ang nagpalubog nito pero di ko narinig ito when I was in the Defense Department. Ngayon ko lang narinig ito.”

21) “Trillanes told the Chinese that we cannot enforce our coastal protection.”

“That is the kind of a Philippine senator you have here. He told the Chinese that we cannot enforce our coastal protection.”

“Our fishermen are living on subsistence fishing. They cannot therefore fish too far.”

“Ibig sabihin, ipamigay niyo na lang ang Scarborough Shoal. Tumakbo tayo sapagkat tayo ay mga duwag. Magkukunyari pupunta sa galeriya, magpapakita sa media para tumakbo lamang.”

22) “The Philippine side did make gapang the ASEAN, which the Chinese did.”

“Akalain mo sinasabi niya dapat gapangin natin ang mga ASEAN dahil gumagapang daw ang mga intsik sa boto, ito yung tungkol sa nangyari sa Cambodia.”

“Anong pakialam ng senator na ito sa foreign relations? Nothing. This guy is involving us with a major problem.”

“He asked Secretary del Rosario if we could give the space in the ASEAN meeting because we did not do this preparation.”

“He wanted to become the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to superimpose his mind to the judgment on the duly designated and appointed shaper of foreign policy for the country. So now we fought with everyone, sabi niya lumalaban na tayo. Ginapang ng Tsina pero hindi natin ginawa. Akala ko ba gusto niya peaceful pero gusto niya makipaggapangan?”

[Editor’s note: The topic is the 45th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Cambodia in July. In the meeting, the regional bloc failed to agree on a joint communiqué reportedly because of the Scarborough Shoal. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, was accused of yielding to pressure from Beijing.]

23) “On the issue of bananas and tourists, they can be fixed quickly if the Chinese leadership wanted.”

“Ayos na ang bananas, inayos daw niya, pinagmamalaki niya siya daw ang nagpaalis ng 40 bapor ng Tsina sa Scarborough Shoal eh. ‘Yun lang ang pinalalabas niya eh, pinagtatawanan lang siya. Maski sa Malacañang maraming nabubwisit sa kanya nu’ng nandun kami kaya lang hindi ko na sinabi sa kanya. 

[Editor’s note: Philippine banana exports to China and Chinese tourist arrivals to the Philippines were affected by the territorial row.] 

24) “The Chinese side suggested a visit of the DOTC secretary to China, sinabi niya. On the Chinese ships that did maneuvers towards Philippine ships, he said.”

“Meaning Trillanes said that these are ordinary moves that ships would do. Aba napakagaling naman ng admiral na ito.”

“Senator was saying, meaning Senator Trillanes was saying Del Rosario should be replaced by Mar Roxas knowing that reports are coursed through DFA, senator said he would give an alternate channel so that communications will go directly to the Palace.”

“He arrogated unto himself to become the channel of foreign policy from him to Malacañang. I do not know whether the President knows about this.”

“He was suggesting and working for a bilateral negotiation with China and in that meeting in the Cabinet, it was agreed that we should not do that. I do not want to discuss anymore the sordid matter. It’s enough that I read these notes of Ambassador Brady to unmask this phantom of the opera in the Philippine politics.” – Rappler.com 


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