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MISSING CONTEXT: Trillanes sold Philippine territory to China

MISSING CONTEXT: Trillanes sold Philippine territory to China
In 2017, the Ombudsman junked a treason and espionage case against former President Aquino and Senator Trillanes on the grounds that no probable cause was established between China’s aggression and their 2012 backchannel discussions
At a glance:
  • Claim: Former senator Antonio Trillanes sold Philippine territory to China.
  • Rating: MISSING CONTEXT
  • The facts: In 2017, the Ombudsman junked a treason and espionage case against former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Trillanes on the grounds that no probable cause was established between China’s aggression and their 2012 backchannel discussions.
  • Why we fact-checked this: The viral post featuring former Senate president Enrile and Trillanes’ quarrel in 2012 has garnered over 12,000 reactions,14,000 shares, and 512,000 views as of writing.
Complete details:

In October 2020, the Facebook page “Future Philippines” circulated a 9-year old video clip of former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and former senator Antonio Trillanes engaging in a dispute. This dispute, which occurred in 2012, revolved around Senator Trillanes’ alleged “suspicious” backchannel talks with Chinese officials over Scarborough Shoal. 

The caption on the video read: “Sino nga ba ang nagbenta sa China ng ating mga teritoryo?” (Who was it that sold our territories to China?)

The post has garnered over 12,000 reactions, 14,000 shares, and 512,000 views as of writing.

The claim lacks context.

Although a treason and espionage case was filed against both former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Trillanes in 2016, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales junked the cases in 2017 on the grounds that China’s “hostilities and aggression” cannot be attributed to the 2012 backchannel discussions. 

Trillanes, who was Aquino’s negotiator for Scarborough Shoal in 2012, spoke to Chinese officials over ownership of the shoal. The Ombudsman found no probable cause for treason or espionage in relation to this.

Despite the former Ombudsman’s resolution on Trillanes’ case, Enrile brought up the issue once again during President Rodrigo Duterte’s public address on May 17.

Like in 2012, Enrile asserted that nobody knew the details of Trillanes’ backchannel discussions, and that his connections with Beijing and role in the negotiation ought to be put into question. Trillanes responded that the country’s territorial disputes with China are no longer about Scarborough Shoal, but the Spratly Islands. 

The arbitral tribunal’s ruling in 2016 on the ownership of Scarborough Shoal’s territorial rights had not worked in favor of China, but in favor of the Philippines. They had declared Scarborough Shoal as a common fishing ground, wherein neither China nor the Philippines can prevent citizens of the other country from accessing the shoal. 

The tribunal’s ruling also meant that both small-scale Filipino and Chinese fishermen ought to have “traditional fishing rights” in the shoal, proving that no Philippine territory had ever been “sold” to China. (READ: MISSING CONTEXT: Philippines lost Scarborough shoal)

As of writing, the Philippines has filed three new diplomatic protests against China over a series of unlawful actions taken by Beijing in the West Philippine Sea. – Danna Gonsalves/Rappler.com

Danna Gonsalves is a Rappler intern. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one fact check at a time.

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