MANILA, Philippines – Should Senator Antonio Trillanes IV be expelled for divulging information obtained from the Senate’s closed-door sessions?
For Senate President Franklin Drilon, Trillanes should not face any penalty if he can prove that he verified with a source outside of the Senate the dinner between police and military officers on the eve of the Mamasapano operation.
“No basis for any sanction,” Drilon told Rappler on Wednesday, March 25. “I am certain Senator Trillanes can indeed show that he sourced his info outside of the executive session.”
Trillanes drew controversy for revealing last week that a police intelligence officer “wined and dined” army commanders before the January 25 Special Action Force (SAF) mission to arrest terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao to determine if the military officers knew of the so-called Oplan Exodus.
The Senate has strict confidentiality rules for executive sessions, where only senators and select staff are allowed to hear sensitive testimonies of resource persons. Under the Senate rules, a senator can be expelled for disclosing information from executive session, with a two-thirds vote of all 24 senators. (READ: Secret Senate sessions: Aiding laws or cover-ups?)
A former Navy lieutenant senior grade, Trillanes defended himself by saying that he verified the information from army officers. He was testy about possible sanctions.
“Kung ang impormasyon nakuha mo sa executive session, ‘di mo pwedeng ilabas. Sinabi ko na kasi nakuha ko ang impormasyon outside of executive session. Kung may senador na ‘di nakakaintindi ng rules, pumunta lang sa opisina ko at papaliwanagan ko,” he said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
(If the information was obtained from executive session, then you cannot release it. I disclosed this because I already got it outside of the executive session. If there is a senator who does not understand the rules, he or she should just go to my office and I will explain.)
Trillanes added: “Ganunman, I will welcome any ethics complaint kung may mag-lakas ng loob mag-file.” (In any case, I will welcome any ethics complaint if there is someone with the gall to file it.)
Senator Grace Poe, who led the Senate inquiry into the clash, refused to give her opinion on the issue, and said that she too is bound by Senate rules. Besides, Poe said any decision to sanction Trillanes is a collegial act that senators will have to discuss first.
Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Aquilino Pimentel III agreed with Drilon.
“No sanction,” said Pimentel. “Did what he reveal endanger national security? Just because two commanders were taken out for dinner by the PNP on January 24?”
Osmeña said that Trillanes’ revelation was not a big deal.
“The main reason for conducting an executive session is to prevent testimony from endangering national security. However, many other issues are usually discussed in that executive session which have little to do with national security. Therefore, technically, those extraneous issues can be divulged. Moreover, there is little to prevent a witness from speaking out in public,” Osmeña told Rappler.
Trillanes made the revelation to question the Senate report into the clash between elite cops and Moro rebels that killed over 60 Filipinos including 44 SAF troopers. The SAF’s failure to coordinate the mission with the military delayed the reinforcements for the beleaguered commandos.
The senator said that the Senate should reveal more information from the 5 executive sessions to show that the blame for the poorly planned mission lies with relieved SAF Director Getulio Napeñas.
An administration ally, Trillanes did not sign the committee report that held President Benigno Aquino III “ultimately responsible” for the operation. He called the report “political.”
Of all nights, why pick this one?
On Wednesday, the police officer Trillanes referred to said that the dinner had nothing to do with the operation.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Senior Superintendent Manolo Ozaeta said that the “boodlefight” dinner at the Del Rio Splash Resort in Koronadal City was meant to be “a gesture of gratitude and goodwill” to officers of the Army’s 601st Brigade “in recognition of the previous successful joint operations launched by the PNP and Armed Forces units in Central Mindanao.”
Ozaeta said that the lunch or dinner party was initially set for November and December 2014 but was moved to January 24 upon the suggestion of his military counterparts “to ensure the availability of all guests since it was on a weekend.”
Still, Trillanes maintained that the timing of the dinner could not have been coincidental.
“Of all the nights to invite, he had to pick that night? Remember what Napeñas said: they have no trust in the army. They wanted operational security, secrecy. All of that connects with this get-together,” Trillanes said.
The senator said the issue will become clear once the House of Representatives resumes its probe into the Mamasapano tragedy in April.
“Now, we will see Napeñas in a different light. He is just washing his hands and finding people to blame. We believed Napeñas because their men died but now, these things are coming out and we are connecting the dots.”
Trillanes criticized PNP officials for “quibbling” over whether it was a SAF or a PNP officer who made the invitation.
“They’re denying the dinner happened. They’re making me look like a storyteller. Ayoko ng ganun.” (I don’t like that.) – Rappler.com