VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Zubiri a cheater? Trillanes a rebel and traitor?

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Antonio Trillanes IV almost came to blows after a heated debate on the Senate floor on Jan. 17.

Though they shook hands and appeared to have patched things up after, the two senators raked up each other’s past, using it to insult the other.

STATEMENT

During the Senate plenary session, Zubiri said he “took offense” in Trillanes’ statement to the media that he and Sen. Richard Gordon intended to whitewash the Bureau of Immigration bribery probe in the Senate.

Trillanes responded by saying he was glad Zubiri took offense “because the statement was meant to be offensive.” The senator proceeded to bring up Zubiri’s history:

“Back in 2007, he in fact resigned from the Senate because he was proven to have cheated during the 2007 elections.”

(Source: Senate Session No. 50, watch from 19:56 – 20:09)

Zubiri refuted Trillanes’ statement, saying he never cheated and other people cheated on behalf of Team Unity, the Arroyo administration’s senatorial bets in 2007. The senator then reminded Trillanes of his own past:

“The gentleman also is accused of rebellion and treason. He is only lucky that the former president pardoned him.”

(Source: Senate Session No. 50, watch from 21:32- 21:41)

BACKSTORY

In 2007, senatorial bet of then opposition Aquilino Pimentel III, filed a protest, alleging that Zubiri’s 12th place win in the elections was “manufactured, padded, fraudulent, altered, distorted and illegal.” Pimentel, who placed 13th, contested the results in 2,658 precincts.

After four years, the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) ruled “dagdag-bawas,” or vote padding and shading, was evident in the results of the contested precincts, with spurious ballots and alterations in the tallies of the elections returns. In the end, it was determined that Pimentel actually had 258,166 more votes than Zubiri.

Zubiri clearly benefitted from the electoral fraud. But even before the decision came out, Zubiri had already resigned as senator, after allegations of poll fraud in Maguindanao emerged.

Cases were filed against former President Gloria Arroyo, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol for allegedly manipulating the poll results, to get 12-0 votes for the administration’s Team Unity, which Zubiri ran under.

Only the case against Bedol, currently detained at Camp Crame, is ongoing. In 2015, Arroyo was granted bail due to insufficient evidence while Ampatuan Sr. died of liver cancer that year.

Then Navy LT. (SG) Trillanes, on the other hand, led more than 300 junior soldiers and enlisted men in what has become known as the Oakwood Mutiny in 2003. He was detained afterwards, and charged with coup d’ etat and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

During his trial in 2007, the same year he first won a Senate seat, he led a walkout and occupied the Manila Peninsula.

In 2010, former President Benigno Aquino III granted amnesty to soldiers involved in the mutiny, the 2006 Marine standoff and the Manila Peninsula siege. Trillanes was one of the grantees.

However, supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte headed by Martin Diño charged Trillanes and former President Aquino with treason and espionage in 2016 for supposedly engaging in backchannel talks with China in 2012, over the West Philippine Sea issue. The case is still pending.

Duterte had accused the senator of committing treason over this but has since kept mum about it.

Sources:

SET Decision in Case No. 001-07 (Pimentel vs Zubiri)

G.R. No. 164007 -- Lt. (SG) Eugene Gonzales, et al., vs Gen. Narciso Abaya, et al.

Proclamation No. 50, s. 2010

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