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Duterte group ‘de facto’ opposition just out to grab power – Trillanes

Former president Rodrigo Duterte and his allies are positioning themselves as the “de facto opposition,” given their numbers and attempts to topple the Marcos administration, former two-term senator Antonio Trillanes IV said.

“They want to assume the role of the opposition but their purpose is not to check policies. They are looking for a political opportunity to get back in power,” he explained in an interview on VERA Files’ Tres from Tress podcast with senior editor Tress Martelino-Reyes on May 31.

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Tres From Tress Show Live Episode: Anyare sa opposition?

Amid the ongoing feud between the Duterte and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. camps, Trillanes said the “independent opposition” led by Sen. Risa Hontiveros should expand its base from the “pink movement” that supported the presidential campaign of former vice president Leni Robredo in 2022.

He stressed that efforts to revitalize and consolidate forces of the independent opposition should begin now instead of at the last minute, a fatal mistake in the 2022 campaign that led to the crushing defeat of the anti-Marcos group.

Trillanes said there should be focus on providing checks and balances to current policy issues while also preparing for the 2028 presidential elections.

A recent Pulse Asia survey showed that neophyte Sen. Raffy Tulfo is the most preferred presidential contender for 2028 with a 35% voter preference. Behind by just one point is Duterte’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte.

Opposition figures like Robredo and Hontiveros are trailing behind with 11% and 1% preference scores, respectively.

Independent senatorial candidates in the 2025 elections such as former senators Kiko Pangilinan and Bam Aquino, and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno should plot their own campaign strategies absent a strong opposition party and “reach out to different sectors and different political colors if they want to have a chance at winning,” according to the former senator.

Trillanes, founder and president of the Magdalo Party-list which was part of the Robredo campaign, pushed for a long-term strategy for opposition groups, as he noted that part of the 2022 failed struggle was the occupation with the day-to-day challenges they faced.

“While preparing for the long game, you have to open your eyes to tactical daily battles. If it comes then you oppose it but you shouldn’t just focus there without preparing for 2028,” he added.

Trillanes bared Magdalo’s plans to conduct a political caucus after the midterm polls in 2025 to determine who will be the independent opposition’s standard bearer for the 2028 elections. He dismissed the possibility of the independent opposition teaming up with the Duterte faction against whoever is endorsed by Marcos.

“The Duterte camp really oppressed the Philippines for the past six years and they still have the same policies. If we join forces with them and they return to power, it will be really bad for our democracy. It’s not wise to do that,” added Trillanes.

The former senator said that part of Duterte’s strategy is to trigger unrest among the military, the police and the public with exposes, calls for Marcos to resign, and protest rallies across the country.

A retired Navy officer who took part in two coup attempts in the 2000s, Trillanes claimed last May that senior officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were involved in recent efforts to unseat Marcos supposedly under Duterte’s instructions.

While recruitment for coup attempts also happened within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Trillanes noted that such efforts have failed after Marcos implemented reforms on military pensions and term limits—concerns previously raised by uniformed personnel.

The PNP has also denied allegations of rumblings within its ranks even as former Duterte spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed Trillanes’ remarks as “hallucinations and hangover from his coup d’etat days.”

“There are no internal reasons now to join any military intervention. Why would you join a power grab which has no real cause but to put them back in power,” he said.

Duterte’s pro-China stance is another issue going against the former president, according to Trillanes. Other accusations against Marcos from the Duterte camp, such as his alleged drug addiction and the supposed meddling of his wife, First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, in state affairs, have also failed to elicit enough outrage to cause the president’s downfall.

“Based on what they are already saying, what they have exposed so far is not really gaining traction,” Trillanes pointed out.

Noting that a lot of things can still happen between now and 2028, including a political crisis that could bring down the administration, Trillanes recalled how former president Joseph Estrada was ousted after the jueteng scandal and his aborted impeachment trial that led to the second EDSA Revolution in 2001.

“When a political scandal or political scam happens and the Duterte camp sees it as something they could take advantage of, that will have a snowball effect. But now, there is no issue that will cause outrage so they are waiting for the next opportunity,” he warned.

In the face of intensifying discord between the Marcos and Duterte groups, Trillanes said the independent opposition should not sit idly by.

“This is not a mere political disagreement [but] we’re talking about an ouster attempt. We need to be proactive,” Trillanes said. “We need to look at what will be good for the country.”