Trillanes denies links to Bikoy: 'He failed our vetting process'

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV strongly denied accusations he is linked to Peter Joemel Advincula or Bikoy, saying the man failed their vetting process. (READ: TIMELINE: The 'Bikoy' controversy)

"First and foremost, I vehemently deny the false allegation that I am part of the ouster plot against the Duterte regime.... [While President Rodrigo Duterte] is the worst democratically elected leader in our nation's history, since my release from detention in 2010, I and my group Magdalo have embraced the democratic path," Trillanes said in a privilege speech on Monday, May 27.

"I stand by my track record. 'Pag sigurado ako sa isang testigo o ebidensiya, nilalabas ko at tinitindigan ko rito sa Senado. Mabigat ang pinagdadaanang proseso ng prospective witnesses dahil 'pag 'di katotohanan ang sinasabi, madaling gibain ng mga senador. The fact [na] 'di ko siya nilabas dito, 'di sya nakapasa sa vetting process," he also said.

(I stand by my track record. When I'm certain of a witness or a piece of evidence, I present it here in the Senate. Prospective witnesses undergo intense scrutiny because if they're telling lies, their statements would easily be debunked by senators. The fact that I did not present him here means he did not pass our vetting process.)

According to Trillanes, some priests approached him in August 2018 to seek help for Advincula, who at the time had sought refuge in the Catholic Church.

But after listening to Advincula, Trillanes said he found many loopholes and decided against helping him.

"Pinakinggan ko siya, subalit nakulangan at naguluhan ako sa mga detalye at isinantabi ko at tuluyan ko nang kinalimutan," the senator said.

(I listened to him, but I found his testimony lacking and confusing. I set it aside and totally forgot about it.)

In February 2019, Trillanes said, the priests again approached him and presented documents on alleged transactions of drug syndicates. He, however, advised them to wait for the results of the validation of local and international groups.

By the time the viral video was posted, the senator said he was abroad for some speaking engagements.

"The Senate records will bear me out," he said.

"Wala akong kinalaman sa mga videos (I have nothing to do with those videos). To my PMA (Philippine Military Academy) upperclassmen here: All right, sirs."

Can't blame priests

In a bid to push his point, Trillanes said he even told the rest of the minority senators not to file a resolution calling for an investigation into Advincula's questionable claims.

"It was floated in the minority bloc if we needed to file a resolution. I was the one who told them not to file a resolution yet. Instead, I said we should wait for him to present evidence to prove his allegations precisely because I still have reservations regarding his revelations. My fellow minority senators can attest to that," Trillanes said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Advincula, who said he was Bikoy in the viral "Ang Totoong Narcolist" video series, first claimed that he was a member of a drug syndicate and that people close to Duterte were involved in illegal drugs.

Later on, he recanted his allegations against Duterte and accused the opposition, including Trillanes, of organizing an alleged ouster plot against the President. Duterte himself accused Trillanes of masterminding the videos.

Despite being dragged into the controversy, Trillanes said he is not blaming the priests.

"Ano't ano pa man ay 'di ko po masisisi ang mga pari na naniwala kay Bikoy. Sa kabutihan ng kanilang puso, nagbigay sila ng sanctuario sa nagsasabi na nanganganib ang buhay niya. As shepherds of Christ, that is their ministry. 'Di na-expect na susuklian ang kanilang kabutihan ng isang kataksilan," he said.

(Despite this, I can't blame the priests who believed in Bikoy. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they provided sanctuary to someone who claimed his life was in danger. As shepherds of Christ, that is their ministry. They did not expect that their kindness would be met with treachery.)

The Philippine National Police (PNP), for its part, has started its investigation against Trillanes and members of the opposition Liberal Party (LP) over Advincula's claims against them. (READ: Robredo: Liberal Party has nothing to do with Bikoy)

PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde said cases of inciting to sedition can be filed against Trillanes and LP members. Albayalde himself previously belittled Advincula as an "information peddler," when the self-styled whistle-blower still claimed that Duterte's relatives were involved in the illegal drug trade. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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