Trillanes hits Malacañang for 'publicity stunt' with fishermen
MANILA, Philippines – Opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV slammed Malacañang for bringing 3 Filipino fishermen allegedly harassed by the China Coast Guard to a press conference in Manila.
Romel Cejuela, Delfin Egana, and Jurry Drio were brought all the way from Masinloc, Zambales, last Monday, June 11, to attest to the supposed benefits brought about by the Duterte administration's approach to China. They faced the media in a press conference with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
The 3 fishermen had been shown in a GMA News report on the taking of Filipino fishermen's catch by the China Coast Guard in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal). (READ: Video captures China Coast Guard taking PH fishermen's catch)
"Clearly a publicity stunt. They got hit by the revelations by the 3 fishermen that's why they sought them out. They probably created a script for them to say that the earlier reports were not true. Clearly in that presscon even, they admitted they were harassed, the catch that they got were taken away by Chinese coast guard [personnel]," Trillanes said in an interview on ANC on Tuesday, June 12.
During the press conference, however, Roque made it a point to tell the media that the incident was not harassment, adding that the fishermen never used the word. One of the fishermen, responding to Roque, agreed that he never used the term.
But Trillanes refuses to buy that, saying it was just part of the Palace's spin on the issue.
"That's a play [on] words. The definition of harassment can be twisted. The fact [that] the Chinese coast guard [personnel] went on board their [boat] against their will shows they're helpless," the senator said.
He also said Malacañang's act shows how the Philippines, under the Duterte administration, is now a "servant" of China.
"It shows the Philippine government is now a client-state or a servant even of China. And what's worse is they're doing all of this publicity spin to enable China to do worse things in the West Philippine Sea," Trillanes said.
China on Tuesday said it has allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag Shoal "out of goodwill," even as the area is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Trillanes also backed the claim of his party mate, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, that Duterte has "prohibited" the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from patrolling the West Philippine Sea.
Trillanes said the information "was given by senior officials in confidence."
Both the AFP and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have denied Alejano's claim.
To push his point, Trillanes said Alejano and his sources are credible, citing their earlier pronouncements on the recent developments in Benham Rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau off the eastern coast of Northern Luzon which is not a contested territory.
Back in January, it was Alejano, a former Marine, who first publicized China's survey on the area – which was later admitted by the DFA, the Department of National Defense (DND), and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
It was also Alejano who first revealed the alleged presence of Chinese military and civilian ships near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea in August 2017.
"[Alejano] wouldn't have known developments in the West Philippine Sea, even Benham Rise, if his sources were not impeccable. I stand by that information. The fact here... is that there are no EEZ patrols," Trillanes said. – Rappler.com