I weep for BBC’s mistake, not so much for Trillanes

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FRANCISCO S. TATAD

FRANCISCO S. TATAD

SEN. Antonio Trillanes 4th, the anti-Duterte senator who has recently caught the eye of some international broadcasters, has been panned by some critics for his rather insipid replies on HARDtalk, the British Broadcasting Corp.,’s interview program known for its tough, caustic, if not downright rude questions from its host. He was interviewed via satellite from Manila last week.

One columnist-friend called the interview a “24-minute disaster” for the former navy captain, turned coup plotter. But without absolving him, I would reserve my greater disappointment for Stephen Sackur, the BBC host. He did not know his subject enough, and his questions were mostly superficial and dim-witted.

Trillanes, now on Youtube, was probably the least intimidating of recent HARDtalk interviewees. Some of us have watched strongmen like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, the Burmese junta leader Thein Sein, Teodoro Oblang of Equatorial Guinea, and at least three Singaporeans of note. First, we heard Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew with Tim Sebastian, the first HARDtalk host, and later (as Senior Mentor Minister) with Sackur. Then we heard Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Tharnam Shanmugaratnam also with Sackur.

David Frost is better
Unlike the interviews of the late Sir David Paradise Frost, OBE, which could get tense without making you feel uncomfortable, HARDtalk interviews tend to evolve into verbal jousts. Each one tends to be an experience; Frost on the other hand was always more pleasurable. My favorite Frost remains his 1977 interview with Richard Nixon, which gave us the unrepeatable line about presidential power: “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.” This appears to have become the guiding light of many Presidents. And his historic act of contrition: “I let down my friends. I let down my country. I let the American people down. And I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life.”


There were others. Among the most moving were Frost with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their earlier years; with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, while he recited Shakespeare and talked of his Welsh heritage, among other things; with Muhammad Ali talking of how he would whip the hitherto undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman in their coming bout; with President George Bush Sr. after he was elected President, talking of his family life and the loss of a daughter to leukemia, and then about the war on terror after the Gulf War; and Frost’s famous interview with his friend Henry Kissinger, which cost him their friendship for the next 20 years.

In that interview, Frost spoke about the US bombing of Cambodia in 1969, which Nixon denied in a speech in 1970. “Why did Nixon say something that was not true?” he asked Kissinger. “Because Nixon was given to hyperbole,” Kissinger answered. “But why did you say the same thing in your own press briefing 30 minutes later?” Frost asked. “That was a mistake,” Dr. K answered and they never spoke again for the next 20 years.

The Lees better than most
In the case of HARDtalk, my favorites are the interviews with the Singaporeans. With their natural charm, they have managed to do much better than others in putting rude interviewers in their proper places, instead of being intimidated by them. The old man Lee Kuan Yew started it all. He begins his March 2015 interview with Tim Sebastian by admonishing the latter to be more precise when attributing specific quotes to him. “I phrase myself very carefully,” he said, “It’s my legal training;” he expected his interviewer to do the same. He then proceeded to educate the latter on why he was doing what he was doing in Singapore.

In a recent interview, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to restrain Sackur’s rather energetic questioning of Singapore’s policies vis-a- vis the media, homosexuals and some social values. Since he did not interfere with the British press councils, they shouldn’t try to interfere with the way he was trying to run Singapore, he said. For his part, the Deputy Prime Minister Shanmugaratnam was reported, in one online review, to have “sucker-punched” Sackur during their encounter at the 45th St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland on May 7. 2015.

Lee, whom Nixon was said to have compared to Disraeli, Bismarck and Churchill, may have set the bar too high for others. Having earned a rare double-starred first honors at Cambridge University, where he studied law, and having led Singapore’s journey from “a Third World backwater to a First World oasis” in so many years, LKY was intellectually way above any HARDtalk anchor, or most prime ministers of the British Commonwealth of his time, for that matter.

This assured the public of competent responses to any tough or even rude questions from any interviewer. But this did not prevent HARDtalk from asking its trademark tough questions about political power, governance and authoritarian rule. HARDtalk obviously speaks for a staunch liberal democratic ethos, and the rigor and vehemence of its questions spring from this position. But in the interview with Trillanes, there was a surprising inversion of perspectives and roles.

Where Sackur failed
Instead of asking Trillanes about President Rodrigo Duterte’s rising authoritarianism, Sackur tried to put Trillanes on the defensive for opposing such authoritarianism. For their part, the senator’s critics were quick to pounce on his failure to answer Sackur’s questions well, while turning a blind eye to the interviewer’s failure to ask the right questions about the country’s real situation. Sackur advanced a number of false or at least unsubstantiated premises, upon which he sought to build a case in favor of DU30, but sadly Trillanes failed to demolish them.

For instance, Sackur quoted Secretary of Finance Sonny Dominguez, without naming him, as saying that the proliferation of drugs, which has allowed DU30’s minions to killsome 8,000 drug suspects, is at the root of the Maute terrorism, which has destroyed the Islamic city of Marawi, after more than a month of fighting, which is still going on. Since when has the Finance Secretary become an authority on the drug war or terrorism?

DU30 first started theorizing about the alleged combination of drugs and terrorism during a recent dinner at Villamor Airbase with visiting US Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee for Southeast Asia, who allowed him to do all the talking. This theory has not been independently verified, despite the reported haul of illegal drugs discovered by the police in the unsecured houses of some absent Moro homeowners. What the authorities have verified is the claimed involvement of the extremist IS, which has made Marawi the seat of its Eastern Province, and where foreign jihadists have descended to take part in the siege. This is the same group that attacked London, Manchester and Paris in recent days, but which Sackur mysteriously failed to talk about with Trillanes.

Obedience to the law
Sackur further quoted the same Cabinet secretary as saying the time has come for everyone to realize that “obedience to the law is not optional.” The BBC interviewer should have realized that these words could only be quoted to the DU30 government rather than to any other group or individual. For it is the government that has wrecked the rule of law and the constitutional order. On May 23, 2017, while DU30 was in Moscow, the IS-linked Maute terrorist group attacked Marawi, prompting DU30 to issue Proclamation 216, declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for a period of 60 days.

Under the Constitution, the President can do this only in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it. Within 24 hours, the Congress, if not in session, must convene in joint session according to its rules without need of a call, and within 48 hours, the President must report his action to Congress in person or in writing. By a vote of a simple majority of all the members of the two Houses, the Congress can reject the Proclamation, which rejection cannot be set aside by the President.

Now, those who do not believe an actual invasion or rebellion exists, and that public safety requires Proclamation 216, have asked the Supreme Court to declare that it has no constitutional basis. At the same time, the Congress, which is currently in session, has refused to sit as one body, and the President has refused to make his report. Therefore, a few others have asked the Court to compel the Congress to follow what the Constitution commands. But the Speaker of the House of Representatives has declared he would tear to pieces any ruling from the high court should it order the Congress to convene in joint session.

All this shows that the proclamation intended to end Marawi’s crisis is legally unenforceable because incomplete; but since DU30 is determined to enforce its presumed powers, he has effectively turned himself into a revolutionary President, operating outside, above and beyond the Constitution and the rule of law. He should be told to obey the law before anybody else.

The BBC interviewer quotes the number of those killed in the drug war but fails to wonder who should be held accountable for the killings. Instead, he commends DU30 for doing exactly what he promised to do if elected—-that he would kill drug pushers and users and dump them at Manila Bay to fatten the fish. He quotes the reported opinion of the so-called “elite”, namely, that the streets of Manila are now safe because of the killings, and that DU30 continues to enjoy allegedly high popular support.

The big lie
Unfortunately, Trillanes failed to shoot down this big lie by saying that DU30’s 94 percent popularity rating after the election has now come down to 75 percent. This was a colossal mistake, and he and those who otherwise agreed with his basic position on DU30 and his cruel and brutal policies must now suffer for it. The local political rating industry has never been run by any kind of verifiable truth or professional integrity, but strictly by political opportunism and money. Just look at the math. DU30 won 38 percent of all the votes cast—less than a simple majority.

And yet a few days later, the opportunistic polling agencies announced his nearly 100 percent “popularity” surge. The fairest statement that can be made about this is that in a country where it is easy to manipulate, intimidate and corrupt people and even institutions, you could never get an honest opinion survey on an all-powerful lord whose solution to everything is kill, kill, kill. If the people being polled do fool the pollsters, the pollsters will try to make money for themselves by fooling everybody else.

But the fact that the Magdalo group in Congress has attempted to file an impeachment complaint against DU30 knowing it would be thrown out by his flunkeys and sycophants without a hearing, and that one Mindanao lawyer has found the courage to file a complaint before the International Criminal Court at the Hague, based on the allegations of a self-confessed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, means that the will to fight political brutality and authoritarianism is alive and well.

It is a pity that Trillanes failed to make use of the free BBC time to make this fact absolutely clear. But a greater pity that BBC’s flagship interview program failed to live up to its name. In this age of the mass media, this failure could inflict a greater injury on our society than the failure of our political leaders.

fstatad@gmail.com

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45 Comments

  1. Reading the article, I noticed some flaws in what Tatad wrote. First, Sackur did not know his subject enough; if Sackur did not know enough, how come Trillanes, who is so glib in interviews, failed to answer the questions correctly? Second, David Frost is better. We all know different journalist have different styles. Not everybody is like Larry King who can draw out the answers from his interviewees without provoking them. Then you go on a long narrative about the interviews made by Frost; which, by the way, everybody also had seen. Does that make Tatad seem like a genius? Third, DU30’s authoritarianism; Like President Marcos, everything DU30 does is by the book, all within the bounds of law. Fourth, Sackur tried to put Trillanes on the defensive. Did Tatad even entertained the thought that Sackur was sick and tried of everything he has read or heard from the local mainstream media with regard to Triillanes’ harping on every little thing the DU30 admin does? Fifth, Sackur’s failure to ask the real situation. Unlike local journalists, Sackur’s does not ask questions which he already knows the answer. So, he asks the really tough questions, which, sad to say, Trillanes was caught flat-footed. The flaws in this article goes on and on, it would take a whole page to write it down. Mr. Kit Tatad must have Alzheimer’s disease already.

  2. You bash the old man but you keep on reading his column. For that, Kit would like to thank you all because he knew that he has done his job as an opinion writer,.. he gets to keep his job ..and he’s probably laughing his way to the bank. Cheers to you Mr Tatad!

  3. Tatad, I don’t understand why you said BBC was wrong. You yourself wrongly reported that President Duterte had stroke when in fact he had not. Perhaps for you wrong is correct? Really, you are becoming a clown as your mouth blabbers.

  4. Tumblinger01 on

    Pwede po bang magtumbling dito. What is wrong with this person? All of one’s respect is gone. Mr Tatad you are also so out of tune with almost all the Filipinos. Honestly, like Trillanes you left a legacy of shame.

  5. Manuel Jaime on

    BBC and Sackur failed? What had happened to the former senator and journalist that i had idolized before,for your hard hitting views and facts laden commentaries. Does age and hateful revenge gotten so much into your neves that you cannot,in the simplest terms,comprehend anymore who is and was the sorry loser between Sackur/BBC and Trillanes? Time to come to terms Mr Tatad! What your are doing to destroy Duterte and his government is costing you so much even your capacity asan authoritative journalist in this country…Accept the truth Mr Tatad,,,believe me, it will set everything in you free…

  6. Ernesto Dela Cruz on

    If Kit Tatad were offered a position in the government (for which he has been salivating), he would be singing a different tune. The Duterte gov’t was right in not even considering him as a janitor in Malacanang. This self-righteous old man is a sore loser like his friends in the LP.

  7. Paul Mercado on

    Mr. Tadtad comments is no different from what Senator Trillanes mistakes. What we’ve observed from the scrutinizing questions Senator Trillanes answers due to lack of sincerity , a lot of wrong answers are made. The big fish was caught with the ambitious mouth of Senator Trillanes . So bad Mr. Tadtad wants to continue that mistakes further. To Mr. Tadtad kindly shut up!!! You and trillanes and the likes are not the solution to this country but part of the big problems our country now facing.

  8. I watched the video and the role sackur took was the one opposite the views of his interviewee. This way he has the point of view or stance of an anti trillanes. It would be like facing your nemesis on air probably part of his script prepared. I pity their research team for selecting such a low quality interviewee in trillanes. In fairness to sackur, he did not need tougher more relevant questions to expose what trillanes is. I agreewatched that it was a waste for bbc to havethe interviewed trillanes. He was simply too shallow and compromised to maintain his dignity under pressure.haha

  9. The interview was not edited and shown truthfully. Trilannes brought shame and disgrace to himself, the Senate, and the PH. Now internationally people think all PH Senators are idiots, who do not know the facts, or a thing about what they are saying.

  10. Mario B. Capangpangan on

    Hay naku Mr. Tatad! You really have twisted mind already, resulting to twisted understanding, twisting it to favor the yellowtards like you. It was clear in the interview that BBC host Sackur is very knowledgeable on the issues he asked Trillanes, And Trillanes showed his utmost stupidity and bias every time he opened his mouth to answer the questions! That was an epic disaster and shame for Trillanes, and he showed to the whole wide world what kind of person he really is! Poor Trillanes, your political career has just ended, even if Mr. Tatad will defend you to high heavens!

  11. It depends on what side of the fence you were standing. Both the interviewer (BBC anchor) and interviewee (Senator Trillanes) did their job. The comments and reactions of the viewing public (check on YouTube) should not be taken for granted. Whether we like it or not majority of the viewing public and those who are using the social media are not satisfied with Senator Trillanes’ responses to the questions thrown at him.

  12. Sachur did a very good job Mr. Tatad. Let’s wait and see if juan dela cruz will vote for this garbage.

  13. Joe Dela Vic on

    Tatad-Trillianes-out of tune. Both of you jump head on to the Bottom Line… Mga wala gamut, useless, Basura

  14. Alex Fernandez on

    Just another trapo. Kaya di ka na makabalik sa pulitika e nakilala na ng mga botante kung ano kulay mo.

  15. “BY FRANCISCO TATAD” branding instantly made me doubt this written opinion’s quality.
    He’s an old-school, persistent but ineffective politician. He had little position effect for Filipinos given his many years in government “service”.

  16. Tatad at Trillanes – parehas bicolano – sino pa magdamayan kundi yun magka bicolano… ganun lang ka simple… pinapahabahaba pa ni Tatad ang kwento…

  17. Mike Schneider on

    Maybe if more HARDtalk interviews were conducted on politicians and senior beaureaucrats and leaders of wealthy family clans in Philippines, the rest of the world could see the real Philippines in the same light as visitors who wish to see this country prosper.
    There appears to be very little Investigative Journalism here which is understandable when Ph is rated as the
    second most dangerous country in which to be an Investigative Journalist.
    TV programmes such as the Australian 60 Minutes and Four Corners could reap a goldmine of stories if they spent time in Philippines and were prepared to risk their necks.

    • The rest of the world already saw that the Philippines at least has one Senator whose i.q. does not even approach his age. And that The Manila Times has one columnist that at least approach the i.q. of Trillanes.

  18. Donato Coronel on

    What can we expect from the point of view of the former dictator marcos’ Goebbel?

  19. castro charles on

    You’ve been in the business so long, and we have different opinions to respect.. but i cant get thru your comment about the greatest blunder ever committed by one SenaTong who dont understand what he’s talking. HARDTALK is formatted as such since it’s conception and Trillanes should always be ready, as he was always ready to HARD HIT DUTERTE even with wrong figures, even without TRUTH at all just to rock this administration like you do. If you journalist have different view on the Trillanes’ interview.. that I can understand but what I dont understand is the way you focus on the blunders of Mr. Sackur instead of the equally blunderous answers of Trillanes. It’s obvoius by now that you have an axe to grind against this Administration. I’m no Duterte fan just to be clear.

    • Siguro , si Tatad ay kasama ni Trillanes sa Nationalista Party … Hindi “DEMOCRAT” !
      He he he he he he he he

    • tatad is showing his bias against du30 by twisting the facts in the interview. he is blaming sackur for the shallow trilyones. me thinks that tatad’s hate for du30 is rooted on du30’s calling the pope an sob and for issuing an executive order on the implementation of the law that touches on use of contraceptives which the catholic church opposed and continue to oppose via the supreme court. plus du30’s branding tatad’s favorite president, obama, a son of a whore.

  20. Hardtalk is hardtalk that us the forte of the program well dahil hindi sya bayaran truth shall set us free ???????? To trilliones ?????????to bbc ✅?????????

  21. Mr.Tatad kaya ang pangalan ng show ay “HARD TALK” kasi talagang igigisa ka at walang pigil sa itatanong. Naawa pa nga si Suckur ng maramdaman niyang wala ng saysay ang mga sagot ni Trillanes. Ang hirap kasi sa mga kakampi mo Mr. Tatad na gustong paalisin si DU30 sa pwesto, masyado kayong nagmamadali kaya panay indulto ang inaabot ninyo. Bakit hindi na lang kayo makisama muna sa ginagawa ng administration ng tumahimik kahit paano ang bayan. Dinadala at hinuhugasan pa ninyo ang ak’ala ninyong dumi ng bayan sa “international forum” sa laki ng paniniwala ninyo kay Loida Lewis na kaya niyang wasakin si DU30 sa labas ng bansa. Sayang ang malaking ikinakapital ninyo dito kay Loida sa gastusin niya at pinagkakakitaan naman niya.

  22. jose b. taganahan on

    I agree with the obsevation of Kit Tatad that the host did not ask the right questions to Sen. Trillanes and worse he appeared to be an apologist of the Duterte administration.I watched the interview of Sen. Trillanes on the program “Hard talk” on the BBC and i happened to agree with him although I never voted for Senator Trillanes twice he ran for Senator.The only in-accurate statement given by him was his statement that marijuana is the favored drug for Filipino illegal drug users. I dont agree the argument that since Pres. Duterte has an approval rating of more than 75% according to the host means that the President has been doing his job well. A 7% economic growth during the first year of the Duterte cannot be fully credited to the Duterte administration since the budget was in large, part of the budget of the previous administration. Former President Erap Estrada also had a high approval ratings in the first year of his Presidency and yet he was removed as President in less than three (3) years of his Presidency.

    • The difference with Erap is that before his ouster, his administration was mostly scandal free. There was no opposition then that was itching to have him removed from office, unlike today in Duterte’s admin. This impatient opposition has somehow made Duterte a survivalist. Since Day One, various issues and scandals have been manufactured and targeted against until the element of surprise has waned and the public got tired, seeing them more as obstructionist rather than a genuine opposition.

    • Samuel Jackson on

      It’s not about which admin the budget belongs to, it’s about WHAT you do with the budget that’s been left. Stop being dumb and do your research about the stats,k. You’re totally out of the point :), and one more thing, Erap had a different situation, he was corrupt.

    • Did you steal from the government, too? Seems like everyone who has taken government funds finds Duterte “authoritarian”.

      Trillanes was faking his facts and lies could not withstand “Hardtalk”. Truth. Keep writing, people will hate you more.

    • He was removed by the priests and the oligarchs. People in mindanao were aghast because only erap had the balls to fight the rebels.

    • What question do you expect to ask in Hard Talk interview? Trillanes is known for condemning PRRD that much. It’s more humiliating if he was asked about his accomplishments, because there’s no single decent bill he has passed yet in the senate. He was just asked right in his own comfort zone but fumbled and came out stupid. The 75% SWS rating is the result of survey conducted during the declaration of Martial Law. The respondents are divided with their own stand on the issue knowing Martial Law is a traumatic experience during the time of former president Marcos. But it will definitely return to its former 80% or plus satisfaction rating once the declaration has resolved the conflict and has brought peace to Mindanao. Yes the budget that is being utilized for Duterte administration has a large share from past administration, but what compliment the current administration is its seriousness to implement projects, which in fact some of them came from the intellect and initiative of the president, so give credit where credit is due. And by the way, Erap is corrupt, Duterte is honest and determine to stop corruption, drug proliferation and alleviate poverty, and he’s doing good with his job, don’t you notice it? By the way, are you a “dilawan”?

  23. Thanks for the very good analysis of the Hardtalk interview of Trillanes, you are exactly right.

  24. Lol

    you downplayed sen. trillanes failure by projecting it to the supposedly bbc’s “failure”. tiga interview lang naman sila e. etong si sen. trillanes dapat ang nag live up to its name bilang isang staunch opposition politician. ano naman pake ng bbc dyan haha. tapos kung anu-anong points na ni-raise mo. halata eh.

    may pa weep-weep ka pa mr tatad lol.

  25. Mr. Tatad did not like Mr. Sackur’s line of questioning because it is contrary to his opinion and bias. Mr. Sackur has heard a lot of the negativism of the main stream media and tried to be fair and lean a bit to the right. I sense that Mr. Tatad is a little bit yellowish.

  26. Parang papansin ka Tatad, 38% nga lang ang vote na nauha ni Duterte sa election eh dapat ba 38% lang din ang kanyang approval rating. Kung makapagsabi ka na minamaniobra lang ng mga Survey bodies na yan ang mga rating paano yung pag defend mo noon sa rating ng amo mo nong nasa gobiyerno ka pa?minaniobra mo din yun?. Sa tingin ko obvious naman na marami talagang pagbabago nangyari sa panahon ni Duterte. Kahit walang secretary na nagsabi na nag-ugat sa droga ang Marawi Crisis, alam NAMING mga Mindanaoan na isa ang droga sa mga dahilan jan. Ang daming labag sa batas na nangyayari sa Marawi City.