Trillanes on China: I got orders from Aquino

Natashya Gutierrez

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Senator Antonio Trillanes IV says all his trips to China were paid for by Malacañang and that everything he did was cleared by the President

MANILA, Philippines – He said he was merely implementing the President’s orders.

This was the explanation of Sen Antonio Trillanes IV to the statements of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that accused Trillanes of back-channeling negotiations between the Philippines and China regarding the countries’ territorial dispute.

Trillanes told reporters that everything he did in relation to China was asked of him by President Benigno Aquino III, and that of the 15 informal meetings he had with China, about half took place there, with his trips and accommodations funded by Malacañang.

Trillanes said he walked out of the Senate on Wednesday, September 19 after he delivered a privilege speech, because he could not sit there and listen to Enrile destroy him as a person.

Tatawagin mo kong coward? Ako pa? Senator Enrile ka lang. Titindigan kita,” he said.

Freed by Aquino

Trillanes was behind the botched 2003 Oakwood mutiny under the Arroyo administration. While attending a court hearing, he again joined an anti-Arroyo mutiny at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in 2007. Enrile, on the other hand, broke away as defense minister from the Marcos government in 1986, helping trigger a civilian-backed revolt that ousted Ferdinand Marcos.

While in jail, Trillanes won as senator in 2007. He was released from jail by President Aquino after the latter became president in 2010. Trillanes has since been an Aquino ally; he is part of the administration’s senatorial slate in the May 2013 elections.

After Trillanes’ speech Wednesday, Enrile took the podium and read parts of a letter allegedly written to him by Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady.

Enrile said that according to Brady, Trillanes had asked that she not take down notes in their meetings and that he called Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario a traitor.

Trillanes said his statements were taken out of context and that a copy of Brady’s letter would explain this. He accused Enrile of interpreting the letter wrongly and editorializing it.

Sabi ko nga sa inyo these are state secrets. Kung gusto niyo talaga, humingi kayo kay Senator Enrile ng document para makita niyo talaga yung contexto,” he said.

He also explained that his alleged statement on the Philippines’ inabiliy to enforce its coastal protection as mentioned by Enrile was again, only a part of what he actually meant and that he was referring to Filipino fishermen.

Gusto ng China na ‘wag na mangisda doon. [Sabi ko] hindi namin mababantayan ang mangingisda namin,” he explained. “If they go [there], deal with that.”

Trillanes added that his alleged claim that he resolved the problem with Philippine banana exports to China, was not his doing but the President’s. He said he merely followed Aquino’s orders, and it was Aquino who should be credited for the return of exports as well as the departure of the boats from the Scarborough Shoal.

Lahat ng mnga dinesiyunan, si President Aquino ang nagdesisyon. Kaya nga kung ano tayo ngayon, nagimprove ang situasyon right now, wala nang tensyon, all the credit goes to the President,” he said.

He said this is the reason why he never exposed the work he was doing for the President from May to July. 

State secrets

Trillanes insisted he was not at fault, and that he finally spoke up because of Enrile’s leadership and his tendency to push and “bully” others to get what he wanted — like the division of Camarines Sur province which Trillanes said was demanded of him by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He said that Enrile’s reading of Brady’s letter and exposure of Trillanes’ dealings with China — both state secrets — was more unparliamentary than his privilege speech, wherein he said he did not use derogatory words.

While Trillanes said he could be civil toward Enrile, he said his relationship with the Senate President is likely broken for good and can no longer be fixed.

Enrile told reporters he would not sanction Trillanes but would instead expose him as a person in 2013.

“I’ll meet him in the campaign, I will tell the people who he is,” Enrile said. –

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.