'Predictable' Trillanes: From Binay, China, Cudia to K to 12
MANILA, Philippines – Even Senator Antonio Trillanes IV could not help but point out the obvious: “Ang dami ko namang isyu.” (I have so many issues.)
Trillanes made the observation in jest as his press conference on Wednesday, April 15, shifted to yet another topic. These days, the senator is busy filing resolutions, granting interviews, and attending Senate hearings on a wide range of topics.
From China, Sabah, to dismissed cadet Jeff Aldrin Cudia, the senator takes on many causes. But he said that his campaign to bring down Vice President Jejomar Binay is his priority for now.
Trillanes smirked when asked about Binay's proposal for an anti-bullying law for politicians in response to the Senate inquiry he initiated to look into the Vice President's alleged anomalies.
He said: “Ako pa pala nambu-bully?” (So I am the one who's bullying now?)
The senator said it is Binay's political dynasty that is bullying him.
“Mag-isa ako rito. Ilan sila? Sampahan ako ng kaliwa't kanang kaso, game tayo diyan. I'm actually the most predictable politician. If you press this button, alam na nila dapat ang reaction ko. Ang effect ng buttons sa ibang pulitiko ay natatakot. Sa akin, hindi eh. Ginaganahan ako,” Trillanes said.
(I am alone here. How many are they? Let them file cases against me left and right, I am game. I'm actually the most predictable politician. If you press this button, they should know my reaction. The effect of these [threat] buttons on other politicians is, they get afraid. Not with me. I actually enjoy taking them on.)
The senator was referring to the libel case the Binays filed against him after he accused the family of paying P50 million ($1.12 million) to two Court of Appeals (CA) justices in exchange for issuing orders stopping the suspension of Binay's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, over the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building.
Trillanes' crusade against the Binays continues on Thursday, when he is set to present two new anomalies the Vice President supposedly committed when he was still mayor of Makati, the country's financial district. He said these also involve Mayor Binay, who was then councilor.
He refused to give details on the anomalies, saying the Binays might preempt his move.
The hearing will be the 18th since the Senate inquiry started in August 2014, the longest investigation in the history of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
The Binays mock him for his supposed style of exposing allegations that turn out to be “duds.” To Trillanes, the hearings exposed the gravity of corruption by the Binays, and successfully brought down the ratings of the Vice President in surveys on the 2016 presidential race.
Treason over Sabah?
While being one of only 3 senators active in the Binay hearings, Trillanes still wants to launch other investigations.
On Tuesday, he filed a resolution for his Senate defense committee to investigate the government's response to China's massive reclamation in the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea.
“We believe it has very serious security implications. So we need to know if our country is prepared for any contingencies. So we would want to be enlightened by the national security and the foreign policy plans of this government,” said Trillanes, a former Navy officer.
This is not Trillanes' first foray into the maritime dispute. In 2012, he drew controversy when reports revealed that he acted as President Benigno Aquino III's backdoor negotiator with China at the height of a tense standoff between Manila and Beijing over Scarborough Shoal, a feature in the disputed waters.
Back then, Trillanes clashed with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who accused him of treason and being biased in favor of China. Aquino though credited Trillanes for helping deescalate tension with Beijing.
Trillanes now also wants to look into a Vera Files report that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) offered to downgrade the Philippines' claim on Sabah to secure Malaysia's support for its arbitration case against China over the South China Sea.
“We want the DFA to explain their side of the story because it was alleged that they dangled the surrendering of the Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysian support for the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea claims so again it has very serious implications, and it could be tantamount to treason,” he said.
These are not the only issues on Trillanes' plate.
He said he plans to go “full blast” next week on his opposition to the Aquino administration's K to 12 program, which adds two years to the basic education system in the Philippines. While he is an Aquino ally, Trillanes has long been a K to 12 critic.
The senator even plans to act on the case of Cudia, who was dismissed from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for violating the school's honor code by allegedly lying about why he was late for class for two minutes. The Supreme Court affirmed Cudia's dismissal on Tuesday.
A 1995 PMA graduate, Trillanes said his Magdalo group will help Cudia secure a college degree, and offer him a scholarship upon learning that the former cadet passed the qualifying exams of the prestigious University of the Philippines College of Law.
Trillanes' Magdalo started as a group of soldiers who staged coup attempts against the Arroyo administration to protest corruption in the military. The group turned into a party-list organization as its members vied for congressional posts.
“Ang problema lumalapit siya sa maling grupo, sa mga makakaliwa. Gagamitin lang siya for media mileage,” Trillanes said. (The problem is he approaches the wrong groups, the leftist ones. They will only use him for media mileage.)
Mar's running mate?
Are all these issues simply meant to promote Trillanes' vice presidential bid?
The Binay camp said that Trillanes is out to ensure a coalition between his Nacionalista Party (NP) and the ruling Liberal Party (LP) so that he can be drafted as the running mate of presumptive LP standard-bearer Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
“Senator Trillanes has been desperately trying to sell himself to voters and more importantly, to Roxas. This is why the senator has been leading the charge against the Vice President, who remains the biggest obstruction to Roxas’ own aspiration to become president,” said Binay's daughter, Makati Representative Abigail Binay.
Trillanes recently announced that he plans to run for vice president but said it will be up to the NP to decide on its line-up for the 2016 polls.
When asked if his efforts are merely geared toward the election, Trillanes told the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that his motivations go beyond politics. He often says he is just being consistent in going after corrupt officials.
“We were just conduits to bringing out this truth, and I'm happy that people are getting enlightened about the true personalities, true characters of these people who have been lording it over the people of Makati, and plundered this whole country.”
He added: “My objective is I want [Binay] in jail, not only for his ratings to go down.” – Rappler.com