Trillanes: DFA chief to blame for Spratly mischief

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SEN. Antonio Trillanes 3rd seems to be, to use the English translation of that vivid Tagalog term, like a mad dog howling in the Senate with accusations right and left against his sole target on God’s earth — guess who? And every time he does, he promises he’ll produce eyewitnesses and documents, which he always forgets to do.

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However, I believe him when he made one of his particular allegations: that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario deliberately caused the aggravation of our territorial disputes with China in 2012.

 Image of Chinese fortification on Spratly islands

Image of Chinese fortification on Spratly islands

Trillanes’ allegation has certainly assumed importance in the context of China’s feverish activities in recent months to build fortifications and even an airstrip on the reefs of the Spratly islands which it has occupied. For a change, Trillanes’ colleagues in the Senate should grill him on his allegations. Or perhaps, as in a relevant scene in that recent movie, Big Eyes, Trillanes should grill himself.

If Trillanes’ allegations are true, the first thing government has to and must do to address the Philippines’ dispute with China is to fire del Rosario. How can we normalize our relations with China if our top diplomat himself seeks to bring the country into a quarrel with this giant of a neighbor? (And we haven’t even discussed that del Rosario, who was ambassador to the US for many years, seems to be in China media’s mind when it accused our country of being a “cute little submissive” of the US.)

Trillanes, after all, is one of President Aquino’s most loyal supporters in the Senate so that he is even seen as his attack dog: Why shouldn’t he believe Trillanes in this crucial issue?

I find Trillanes credible in his accusations on this issue for two reasons. First, unlike his other accusations-in-aid-of-his-electon in the Senate, Trillanes was himself a witness to his allegations and a participant in the relevant events.

President Aquino designated him as his “back-channel” in talking with China in early 2012, when the crisis first broke out after our coast guard ships arrested Chinese fishermen doing their business in Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese reacted by sending their ships – bigger in size and in number – to escort their fishermen and occupy Scarborough Shoal.

It is in the course of his “back-channelling” mission that he concluded that del Rosario was provoking the Chinese, so much so that an angry Trillanes blurted out: “He should be shot by firing squad for what he did.”

Second, defending China in this territorial dispute, which is what Trillanes would be interpreted as doing by accusing del Rosario, is extremely unpopular and so totally against this Senator’s obsession to be picked by Aquino as vice-presidential candidate in 2016. Why would he lie?

Aide Memoire

The senator’s account, and his allegations against del Rosario, are contained in his undated four-page aide memoire entitled “Summary of Backchannel Talks,” which had been made available to me.

Trillanes, in his paper, pointed out that following Aquino’s orders, he had succeeded in his back-channel talks with Chinese officials, so that they ordered on June 10, 2012 the withdrawal from the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc on our maps) of their Coastal Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships and 14 fishing boats. Our two Bureau of Fishing and Aquatic Resources vessels, as part of the agreement, also left the area.

Nine days later, though, Aquino called Trillanes to say that they were “betrayed by China.” Aquino referred him to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s huge banner-photo which showed Chinese uniformed personnel holding a Chinese flag on the shoal, with the headline in huge fonts screaming: “China ships stay on shoal.”

Trillanes in his report wrote that his Beijing negotiators denied the news story, and pointed out that the photo was an old one from the 1980s. The senator himself had suspected so, as the photo had clear blue skies and calm waters as background, when in fact a typhoon was passing through the area at the time the photo was published.
Trillanes claimed that his contacts in the newspaper told him that the story and photo came from del Rosario.

According to subsequent reports, the Chinese ships, both their CMS vessels and the fishing boats, indeed, had left the shoal, although as Trillanes said in his report, the Chinese would not announce that this was due to negotiations with the Philippine government. The official explanation of the foreign ministry was that the ships escorted the fishing boats to the Chinese mainland to escape an impending typhoon that would pass over the shoal.

There was a second instance in which del Rosario planted, Trillanes alleged, a false news story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that roused Philippine ire against China:
“On 24 June, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a story about a Chinese vessel ramming a Filipino fishing boat. Again, P-Noy called me and he was furious about this incident. I told him that I would ask Beijing about it. When I confronted the negotiators, they told me that their ships [were]in place and that the incident happened in an area that was at least 150 nautical miles away.

“So I investigated further by sending somebody to talk to one of the survivors who was then confined in Ilocos Sur. The survivor said that they were already sinking while tied to a fish marker and that they were not rammed at all. I then asked around again in the Inquirer as to who fed the story. My sources then revealed that the story came from Sec. del Rosario.”

According to Trillanes, he recommended in an executive Cabinet meeting on July 5 that Aquino adopt a bilateral approach to resolving the territorial dispute with China, especially that over the Scarborough Shoal.

Bilateral talks

He explained that his bilateral talks with Chinese representatives had resulted in the drastic reduction of Chinese vessels from almost a hundred to only three.
Trillanes told Aquino that the Chinese made the commitment to pull out the remaining three CMS vessels if the Philippines does not internationalize it by raising the issue to the Asean Regional Forum scheduled for July 12. The Chinese, he said, also assured him that they would not put up any structure around the shoal.
Del Rosario, however, pushed for internationalizing the dispute. Trilllanes narrated:

“I clearly remember USec. Henry Bensurto with a PowerPoint presentation telling everybody in the meeting that the annexation of Scarborough Shoal by China would be used as a springboard to claim Western Luzon. Sec. del Rosario proceeded to present that China had almost 100 vessels in and around the shoal; that they placed a rope at the entrance of the shoal and the Chinese were duplicitous.”

(“USec Henry Bensurto” was not an undersecretary but a foreign affairs department assistant secretary heading its West Philippine Sea Center, and the Secretary-General of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Secretariat.)
“The rope at the entrance of the shoal” del Rosario alleged is sheer nonsense, a source familiar with Scarborough shoal explained. The “rope” seen by Coast Guard personnel was a remnant of anchor ropes floating near the entrance of the shoal.

Trillanes report continued:

“It was at this point that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile… raised the ante and proposed on the table that we study the option of completely cutting ties with China. Sec. del Rosario and Sec. Almendras followed suit and the discussion went on with NEDA detailing how many percentage points would be shaved off the GDP; DTI, explaining that the electronics exports sectors would be gravely affected; and DOLE, saying how many OFWs would be repatriated, etc.”

“In the end, when the vote came in, it was lopsided in favor of Sec. del Rosario’s option…” (to internationalize it).

Del Rosario’s internationalization tack has failed with the Asean refusing to take a stand against China in the dispute. The country’s filing of an arbitration case at the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea became its main venue for internationalizing the dispute.

Trillanes concluded in his report that in August 2012 he “politely declined from continuing with (his) role as back-channel negotiator since P-Noy had already decided his policy action (of internationalizing the dispute.)”

During Trillanes’ stint as backchannel negotiator in 2012, there were persistent reports that del Rosario detested the senator’s role, and had even threatened to resign his post, as he wasn’t consulted on the matter.

What Trillanes won’t even consider, though, is the idea that del Rosario may simply be following Aquino’s guidelines.

Wasn’t Aquino already obviously belligerent and rattled our nonexistent sabres when he declared, I think rather stupidly, in a 2012 speech: “We will defend Recto Bank as if it were Recto Avenue.”?

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao

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19 Comments

  1. More Nonsense from Trillanes. Trillanes never had any success with China in his backdoor talks. China withdrew their coastguard ships and replaced them with better equipped and more highly trained China Navy ships. This is eminently clear from photos. Trillanes is a talker and loves to blame others for any problems. He quite honestly is not a good Senator. He completely fails to understand the root of this China problem is the Exploration Agreement that China signed with GMA and then was cancelled by Aquino. You now have China just two years later grabbing everything and building permanent military bases. The Philippines can now kiss that region good by. It’s now ancient history.

  2. I don’t think Trillanes is right on his comment against Secretary Del Rosario. Trillanes is full of hot air in his head is should be deflated. For sure when Trillanes opens his mouth all he got are hearsay and when ask for facts and evidences he will evade. Why not ask Trillanes where he got the monies when he bought 40 units of Delicas and two school buses he used in the Oakwood mutiny from Car Option located in Araneta Ave.

  3. On March 31, 2014, just about five months after Haiyan ravaged the Eastern Visayas region and other parts of the Visayas, I was warning about deadlier Haiyans. And sure enough in December 2014, there was Hagupit and Seniang when storm surges and landslides devastated the parts of the Leyte-Samar that were not destroyed by Haiyan.

    It is not only Global Warning that we have to contend with.

    How about the following crucial issues confronting the Filipinos?

    • The deadly Panda that is China. Every time I watch CCTV, the news is
    that the gargantuan 1.37 billion Chinese with more than 3 million soldiers
    in the PLA which can squish the Philippines like a mosquito, keeps on
    repeating that we are illegally occupying Chinese territory in Panatag,
    Ayungin, and Kalayaan and the West Philippine Sea. And that the
    leadership of the 1.37 billion Chinese find this intolerable whatever the
    rest of the world will say.

    • The 46-years Armed Struggle of the National Democratic Front. Is China
    encouraging the NDF to hold on? So that when the 7,107 islands are
    divided between Malaysia and China, China will hand over to the NDF
    parts of our Homeland that China will graciously give up?

    • The national impact of Mamasapano and BBL. The Tausug-Sultanate of Sulu-MNLF Misuari Wing and Sabah and how the MILF and the Philippine government might respond to them.

    • The contemptible plunderers in the government. Will they ever be
    punished? Many don’t think so. They will walk, and will be the icon of
    adulation by their fans who have shared in their plundered loot.

    • Extent of unemployment and the poverty of our people. A lot of them are
    just depending on their family members who are working outside of the
    Philippines as brutalized domestic helpers, and exploited workers. Many of our OFWs are leaving Europe and the Middle East because of economic collapse and the violence in the Muslim countries in the Middle East.

    • More groups becoming restive. They are discontented with the way things
    are happening in the Homeland which they attribute to the quality of
    President Aquino’s co-workers and to his type of leadership also. Of
    course, they have not reached a critical mass, and massive gatherings in
    Edsa are things of the past.

    • Massive criminality due to a host of factors, which might include the
    rampant drug addiction. Basta kung sino ang gustong patayin, papatayin.
    Aming kasama sa aming NGO, yayariin ng mga police at kasabwat na
    mga civilian in Pasay. Hinihingi-an ng P500,000! Naagapan ng kaibigan
    na abogado at 4:00 AM. Ikukulong sana.

    • Destruction of our environment, especially the hardwood trees, the favorite
    of the powerful dishonorable.

    • A Judicial System that can make one cry and go on rampage. Remember
    that massacre in the Luneta because allegedly, a lawyer with the
    Ombudsman was shaking that policeman. But there might be hope with Conchita Carpio-Morales as the Ombudswoman. And note the 15-0 vote in the Supreme Court against the pakulo of some people in the Comelec.

    • This Electoral System, what next?

    • The very, very sad prospect that those waiting in the wings when
    President Aquino’s term is over, do not provide a glimmer of hope and
    inspiration for a better life for our people.

    What are the good things in the Homeland? It is more fun in the Gates of Hell. Be careful when you are taking a taxi in Metro Manila.

    We need a national and global mobilization!

  4. Roldan Guerrero on

    TRILLANES? A juniour grade navy officer behaving like a hostile Admiral, a CONVICTED MUTINEER who is too ambitious to become president of this country, What will happen to this country by having a leader like him? He will put everyone in danger by waging war against a giant who is very much ready perform its expantionism goal. We have seen how this traitor discharges his function as a mistaken senator, a senator who should never have been, A senator pardoned by a STUPID LEADER who cant tolerate his abuses….

  5. What are you saying Trillanes? May masabi lang talaga no? Instead of your favorite sports of grand standing and point fingers… why not help out our nation?!

  6. The real issue is that PNoy is a dupe of the American puppet-masters. It was shown in his foolish aggression towards China. And it was very clear in his behavior in Mamasapano. This isn’t to say that we should defy the Americans. But we should not be its pawn. America will only act in its self-interest. And abandon the Philippines when it is convenient to do so. We should be more pragmatic.

  7. Ang lumalabas, mukhang hindi na maaasahan ng mga fisherfolk communities ang gubyerno (AFP / PN, Phil Coast Guard, BFAR), at mukhang nasa kamay na nila NAKASALALAY ang pagdedisisyon at plano para pigilan at labanan ang PAGNANAKAW at PANG-AABUSO ng China sa West Philippine Sea..

    PEOPLE POWER, o pagkakaisa ng FISHERFOLK communities ang sagot…kung makapag-momobilized lang ang mga fisherfolk organization ng mahigit 1,000 bangka, kaya nitong malabanan at muling ma-okupa ang PANATAG SHOAL na iligal na inagawn ng CHINA at muling makapangisda ng malaya sa lugar..

    Sa malaking bilang ng mga mangingisdang bangka na manggagaling sa Palawan, Bataan, Zambales at Pangasinan), kasama ang media (local at international), kaya nitong maglunsad ng people power – OCCUFY PANATAG SHOAL MOVEMENTS. – peaceful and non-violence ng walang suporta at alalay sa gubyerno ng Pilipinas..

    Wala silang kalaban-laban at hindi sila mananalo sa CHINA kung kanya-kanya, hindi organisado at walang pagkakaisa ang mga FISHERFOLKS communities..

  8. Sen. Trillanes is like a drunk sailor, throwing punches in the air. Now think about giving him a more powerful position, he will be kicking too. Wala pa naming nangyari sa mga paratang niya kina VP Binay, Justices of the Court of Appeals and now the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Parang asong ulol !!

  9. Pnoy Aquino et al are ramping up the anti-chinese rhetoric/sentiment and making them the target of vitriol.
    Next logical step – link Binay to being pro-chinese, and therefore villain of the piece/peace.
    Ergo – another nail in binays political coffin.

  10. Trillanes? A mad dog of Penoy on the loose. He snarls at almost everybody like any rabid dog. Caution – rabid dog in the Senate!

  11. there are two people in the public eye just spreading lies, half-truths, and gossip. The no name guy from the MILF and Trilannes must learn how to deal with facts. We cannot trust either one to say anything that is not a made up story.

  12. Benigno Kuha-Ko, Akin-Na on

    kaya pala ayaw i-convene ang National Security Council… kasi magkaka-bistuhan lang.

  13. iS It Correct on

    “…obsession to be picked by Aquino as vice-presidential candidate in 2016. Why would he lie?”
    Multiple choice: (a) unrequited love? (b) denied obsession? (c) personal vindictiveness for his cringe- worthy back-channelling failure (again! remember Oakwood)? (d) megalomanic manifestations or delusions? (e) just plain delusions?
    Answer: (f) compulsion and (g) all of the above and more.

  14. Cres Malifier on

    You and Trillaness seem to be favoring Communist-Party ruled China in its efforts to belittle, humble, kick around the Philippines.
    May you and Trillanes get your just desserts and bad karma in due time.
    It’s a pity, Ambassador Tiglao, that your great skills as an investigative journalists are from time to time wasted in your uncontrollable urge to attack your enemies and support your favorites.
    Why don’t you just be a fair, just and incisive reporter, serving the Truth?

  15. Reading from the notes of Phil. Ambassador to china Sonia Brady, Enrile said Trillanes had manifested the Philippines does not care about the Panatag Shoal. “Pilipino ba yan? Makabayan ba yan? What kind of Senator is this? He said “My God this guy is a Fraud” Ayan nag walk out si Trillanes.

  16. sonny dela cruz on

    What does it mean. President Aquino is not in charge and have no plans on how to deal with the situation with China. The Philippine senate should be the first to convence and discus matters regarding China. Sec Del Rosario should consult first the senate before he makes any action that might imperil the close relationship between the two countries but he didn’t. Now, the problem is big, China is almost done with the reclamation of the islet for their military use. What can the Philippines do? Filipinos do not care, you won’t see any protest against China’s encroahment of Philippine area of jurisdiction. Filipinos are hostage by the TAIPANS, they are PRO-CHINA and not pro-Philippines. They have no allegiance to the Philippine flag. The Philippines welcome them with open arms during their escaped against Mao in 1940″s, and now they are mostly billionaires but they have no sympathy for the Philippines. I am very very sad for what is happening to my beloved country.

    • Absolutely correct. How can they be loyal to PH when slowly they’re taking their wealth to mainland China. It’s about time to kick some ass. The loyal Filipinos will be the same Filipinos who fought the Spanish. The people from Mindanao, the Batangenos, Bulakenos, If the war erupts between PH and China watch where the Taipan loyalty goes. In Indonesia the Chinese left for Singapore.