News Top Stories

Word war at the Senate (Read the full text)

SEN. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday accused Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of being a “GMA lackey” for supposedly rushing a bill that would cut up Camarines Sur province as a favor to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The charge led Enrile to unleash a ferocious counterattack, calling the neophyte senator the “Phantom of the Opera in Philippine politics” for reportedly undermining the Department of Foreign Affairs by engaging in back channel talks with China on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

The word war at the Senate came on the heels on another exchange in the media between Trillanes and Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario, who took issue with the senator’s unofficial talks with Chinese officials on the West Philippine Sea. Trillanes, in turn, had hinted that it was Del Rosario ineffectiveness that led President Benigno S. Aquino III to seek his help.

Caught in the middle, Malacanang said the President has asked Trillanes and Del Rosario to “refrain from making any further comments.”

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also read Trillanes’ statement that he and Del Rosario “have no disagreements” and that the President was “calling to shots” on the negotiations to end the tense standoff with Beijing on Panatog Shoal.

Del Rosario also issued a statement, saying, ”The DFA executes the foreign policy of the President. We will not dignify those who are working to divide us. There must be one policy and one team in promoting our national interest in the WPS.”

Read the full text of Trillanes’ privilege speech, Enrile’s intepellation and Lacierda’s briefing below


“Kung gusto ko isasagasa ko. Kung ayaw ko, uupuan ko.”

“Gusto ko happy ka.” Iyan po ang campaign slogan ng ating senate president noong siya ay kandidato pa noong 2010 elections. Bumenta po iyan; maraming pong sumakay dyan. Pero ang nakakalungkot, sa pagpatakbo ng senado, malayo ito sa katotohanan. Kasi po, ang kalakaran talaga dito ay: “Kung gusto ko, isasagasa ko; kung ayaw ko, uupuan ko.”

There are many instances to illustrate this prevailing policy under Senator Enrile and some of my colleagues, (particularly, Senator Pia Cayetano and Senator Joker Arroyo), have been at the receiving end more often than others. As for myself, being a newcomer, and the youngest at that, while I was uncomfortable being shoved around every now and then, I gamely took everything as part of the learning process and figured that’s just how it is here in this august chamber. I am a very patient man. Well, not necessarily before the Oakwood Incident in 2003 but seven and a half years in prison can do that to you sometimes. But one incident a couple of months ago jolted me into the realization that this shabby treatment and even shabbier policy should not be tolerated anymore.

Last July 24, a day after the President’s SONA, a caucus was called at the Senate President’s office. We were not informed of the agenda so; I assumed right away that it was probably about something really important. Eventually, of course, I learned that the principal item on the agenda was not about national security, or even of national significance. It was about the local bill on the division of the province of Camarines Sur. Without elaborating on the details of what happened in that caucus, suffice to say that I was shoved aside for the nth time. Eto na naman po, “kung gusto ko, isasagasa ko.”

I got out of that caucus feeling trampled upon by a bully determined to get his way. My neophyte instincts were telling me then to just keep the peace and get out of his way. But then, the public servant in me just couldn’t let this thing pass.

As a matter of public policy, dividing provinces or carving out new ones is not beneficial to the state or the people of the affected province. Otherwise, let’s just divide all the big provinces for as long as they meet the requirements as provided for in the law and we’ll probably end up with around 200 provinces in total. A few exceptions could be, when there are two distinct and warring tribes occupying one province or; when a province is composed of two large islands that are administratively cumbersome. But in the case of Camarines Sur, neither of these conditions is present.

Of course, there is the cop-out “we should let the people decide” argument. I’ve heard this from the Senate President several times that I was almost convinced that he actually believed it. Almost, because if he really does, then I would immediately initiate the division of his Cagayan province and expect from him the same zeal and vigor that he has in rushing this bill. This argument, if allowed to be the basis for the approval of this bill, will, henceforth reduce the whole process of succeeding similar bills, from the committee hearings, interpellations and up to the third reading, as a mere ministerial duty of the Committee on Local Government and the Senate because at the end of the day, if anyone would oppose, somebody would just say, “we should let the people decide.”In my limited understanding of my job description, that is not why we are here. If, as a Senator of the republic, a representative of the people, you see that something is patently detrimental to the interest of the State, in this case, the Province and the public, you should not let it pass or, at the very least, oppose it. That is the essence of a representative democracy. Then again, our Senate President is a very smart man and I know for sure that he knows this. But with his, “kung gusto ko, isasagasa ko” policy, he will use such arguments if he finds it convenient.

Now, this is the sad part. Everyone in this august chamber knows that this bill is gerrymandering in its worst kind, particularly, one that would provide for new elective positions to accommodate two 3-term congressmen. But if it were so, why would our Senate President be particularly interested to the point of straining relations with members of the very Senate that he leads? Is it just to please Congressman Villafuerte? And why would he rush it to the point of dictating on a chief of staff of a fellow senator on what his principal should do and when he should schedule his committee hearings? Worse, our Senate President didn’t even cancel the session at the height of the habagat rains when all government agencies already did, just so this bill could be tackled.

The Senate President even said that this bill should be passed immediately to relieve him of the pressure. What, the great Senator Enrile could be pressured? I remember him saying otherwise, during the last impeachment proceedings. Is the pressure coming from Congressman Villafuerte, who we see often loitering about at the senator’s lounge, the senate president’s office, and even personally lobbying to senators while we are in session? As persistent as Congressman Villafuerte is, I doubt it if our Senate President would be pressured by him. Annoyed, probably, but not pressured. Of course, President Aquino cannot possibly be the source of the pressure since this bill isn’t even in the president’s legislative agenda.

I kept on looking for a possible explanation for our Senate President’s irrational behavior and it finally came in the form of a news report by Ms. Christina Mendez of the Philippine Star dated 06 September 2012. In the report, Ms. Mendez’s source revealed that it was Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who personally called up the Senate President to speed up the measure. This information was also validated by one of our colleagues.

With this totally unexpected twist, everything seemed to fall into place. Now, there remain only two possibilities: that our Senate President is deeply indebted to GMA; or that he is a GMA lackey. Either way, I have lost trust, faith and confidence in Senator Enrile’s capability to lead the senate along the path consistent with the reform agenda that I espouse.

I, therefore, manifest that I am leaving the majority and, consequently, joining the minority effective this day.

Thank you.


Senator Cayetano (A). Anyway, Mr. President, no one can stop a senator from standing up and saying his piece.

Senator Enrile. I did not start this, we know. If the gentleman starts a fight with me, I will take the gentleman on.

Senator Cayetano (A). Yes, Mr. President, I am not objecting now because he has the right to take the Floor on his own time now. I am just—a very humble reminder, Sir, that if it is an executive session, or if this was told in confidence or this affects-

Senator Enrile. No, I am going to speak to the Filipino people about this.

Senator Cayetano (A). Thank you, Mr. President.

The President Pro Tempore.  Yes, the Senate President has been accused by another colleague, we will let the Senate President continue.

Senator Enrile. I will just read these notes of Mrs. Brady about this meeting with Trillanes in Beijing. This is dated 17 August 2012. These are notes made by—I have it here the official copy but I have it enlarged because I have a problem with reading and I will read it to you. Yes, this is my own time now.

1) Senator Trillanes requested that no notes be taken;

2) What the Chinese want is to tone down the rhetoric. He met the night before with senior Chinese MFA official, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;

3) Senator was initially approached by Executive Secretary;

4) When he got involved, it was in the height of the problem; he had to find out what was happening so he tried to see whether this was a move of the Americans. He was suspecting the Americans as involved in the conflict.    He ascertained that they do not want any conflict especially in an election year. I think the word “they” there refers to the Chinese.

5) On Secretary Del Rosario, U.S. has already let him go, binitiwan nasiya. And this is the note of Brady.       In the July meeting, Hillary Clinton did not speak up for us. Secretary Del Rosario is committing treason.This is a senator of the Republic calling our secretary a treasonous person in a foreign land. He does not even know when treason arises.

6) We are internationalizing the issue because of Secretary Del Rosario.This is his move.

7) There was never any negotiation between the Chinese and the Americans, just a meeting with Kurt Campbell. Mr. Campbell was not a negotiator. Besides, Secretary Del Rosario was not there.

8) The arrangement being looked at by the senator, meaning Senator Trillanes, was one side would leave first, then the other side, then the next, et cetera. They were talking about the manner of evacuating Scarborough.

He then received a call from PNoy saying why are the Chinese still there when there was an agreement for simultaneous withdrawal. He thought to himself, this is not the arrangement. He was protecting the Chinese. He asked Manny V. Pangilinan to ask Secretary Del Rosario to keep quiet, to quiet down. This has now happened. The two go along way back because it was also Secretary Del Rosario who introduced Mr. Pangilinan to the Indonesian businessman. During the days of the PLDT, Secretary Del Rosario confronted the Yuchengco group shareholders and threatened them. This is a senator talking back against a cabinet member.

10) The two plus two meeting in the US, Mr. Pangilinan was paying a lobby group to get that meeting. This is number 10.

It says, the two plus two meeting in the US, Mr. Pangilinan was paying a lobby group to get that meeting. I do not know what that “two plus two meeting” was all about. We thought all along it was with the accord of the US.

11) DFA was the one who kept releasing press articles. Now the press is turning their back on Secretary Del Rosario. In this way, he is being marginalized.

The release of the picture of a man planting flag on Panatag is from the 1980s, so this was rehashed.

On the Hasa-Hasa grounding of the Chinese frigate, there was supposed to be no press release, but when the DFA got hold of it, it released it to the media. The running was also an incident that was released to the press. Senator Trillanes wanted everything that was happening in Scarborough to be made secret so that it will protect the interest of the Chinese.

12) Mr. Pangilinan and Secretary Del Rosario wanted to create an event.

He was accusing these two of manipulating a war condition to divert attention from the Reed Bank. The findings there were not substantial, so, Mr. Pangilinan asked the Chinese group not to release the findings. They needed time to ensure that they can recover their investment. First, sell off to another buyer. Imagine. What a Senator. Nakakahiya!

13) There were alarmists in the Palace meeting when Secretary Del Rosario presented the invasion of Luzon. I was there. This is a total falsehood.   So, nabilog ang ulo ng lahat. You saw this in the meeting. Even Senate President Enrile wanted to cut relations. This is very alarmist. This gentleman is foisting a falsehood. I was there, President Aquino was in front of me. I was directly in front of him. The poor Secretary of Foreign Affairs was being pilloried by this Novato in foreign relations accusing him of not knowing his job. And I said: “I support the position of the Department of Foreign Affairs. We should involve our allies and friends in this discussion because we cannot handle the Chinese on a bilateral basis. But he was insisting a one-on-one dealing with China. What bargaining position do we have? He is supposed to be a trained military mind, but he does not know anything about military strategy.

14) The Senator was inquiring, this is Brady talking–on which officials could visit China. Because the Chinese side were angry with PNoy, they suggested his kalaban, the Vice President. Imagine, intriguing between the President and the Vice President. Senator thought, “Perhaps, Mar Roxas na lang”. The Chinese side said: “An official could meet Chinese Vice President. ”

15) In Panatag Shoal, there was never a problem about their presence.

From 66 boats, this was reduced to three. The Chinese side said: “They will eventually take out the boat. They may eventually have given time.”

16) This is his twelfth. According to Mrs. Brady, that was his twelfth meeting with the Chinese. Senator Trillanes has been quietly, secretly,   clandestinely meeting with the Chinese about the Scarborough and the West Philippine Sea. PNoy called the Senator when he saw that the Chinese did not keep their word to withdraw. PNoy did not know of the arrangements being made by the Senator.

Imagine, talking to a potential enemy of this country 16 times. What did he discuss with these people? Who initiated the discussion? Did he or did they? Did they pay for his trip to Beijing? Ha? He should answer. That is why he could not be here because I am going to ask him. ·My God, this guy is a fraud. [Pause]. Where was I?

17) President PNoy did not know that talks were suspended with theChinese for two weeks.

18) President PNoy gave his clearance to pursue initiatives on back channel talks. This is his representation to Mrs. Brady.

19) In the Philippines, no one cares about Panatag Shoal. He said to Mrs. Brady: “Sa Pilipinas walang may gusto sa atin yong Panatag, yong Scarborough Shoal.” Iyan ang sinasabi niya. Filipino ba iyan? Makabayan ba iyan? My God! What kind of a Senator is this?

“China was never going to put up a station there.” Iyon ang sinabi niya. Sinabi ni Trillanes. He was speaking for China. “If China wanted to, they would have done so already.” That was his position. He did not realize that the whole China Sea is being claimed by China. And yet he claims to be an expert in international law, expert in security, expert in geopolitical struggle, expert in foreign relation.

About Sansha City and the garrison, the Senator, meaning, Trillanes, said: “We also have garrison in KIG.” I think, this is Kalayaan Island Group. Garrison ba iyon? Aka ang nagpalagay ng airstrip doon para mabigyan natin ng ayuda yang ating mga sundalo doon, pero hindi garrison iyon. Hindi kagaya ng sinusuportahan niya na bansa na mayroon ng mga fortification doon. Para sa kaniya, hindi fortification iyon. Laruan lang iyon. Aywan ko kung sinong nagturo sa kanya sa Philippine Military Academy.

“Besides, this is for their domestic audience.” Domestic audience daw, pero kinukuha nila ang Iugar natin. Pero sa kaniya, parte lang ng politika ng Tsina ito. “The Chinese could have attacked our garrison if they wanted to.” What a military mind. “We also have a sunken ship in the area which we did on purpose.” Ito ang ipinagmamalaki niya. Siguro, baka siya ang nagpalubog nito. Pero hindi ko narinig ito, when I was still in the Defense Department eh. Hanggang ngayon, ngayon leo lang narinig ito.

He told the Chinese, Trillanes told the Chinese that we cannot enforce our coastal protection. That is the kind of a Filipino Senator we have here. He told the Chinese that we cannot enforce our coastal protection. Our fishermen are living on subsistence fishing. They cannot, therefore, fish too far.

Ibig niyang sabihin, pamigay na lang ninyo iyong Scarborough Shoal. Tumakbo tayo, sapagkat tayo ay mga duwag. Magku-kunwari pupunta sa Galeria, magpa-pakita sa media para tumakbo lamang.

The Philippine side did not make gapang the Asean which the Chinese did. Akalain mo sinasabi niya na dapat gapangin natin iyong mga Asean dahil gumagapang daw iyong mga Intsik sa boto. Ito iyong tungkol sa nangyari sa Cambodia. Ana ang pakialam nitong Senador sa foreign relations? Nothing. This guy is involving us with a major problem.

He asked Secretary Del Rosario if we could give the space in the Asean meeting because we did not do the preparation. He wanted to become the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to superimpose his mind to the judgment of the duly designated and appointed shaper of foreign policy for the county.

“So, now we fought with everyone.  Sabi niya, lumalaban daw tayo. Ginapang ng Tsina, pero hindi natin ginawa.” Akala ko ba gusto niya peaceful pero ang gusto niya makipaggapangan.

“On the issue of bananas and tourists, they can be fixed quickly if the Chinese leadership wanted. Ayos na ang bananas”. Inayos daw niya. Ipinagmamalaki niya na siya raw ang nagpaalis noong apatnapung (40) bapor ng Tsina doon sa Scarborough Shoal. lyon ang pinalalabas niya. Pinagtatawanan lamang siya. Maski sa Malacanang, maraming nabubuwisit sa kaniya noong nandoon kami kaya lamang hindi ko na sinabi sa kaniya.

“The Chinese side suggested the visit of the DOTC Secretary to China”, ang sabi niya. On the Chinese ships that maneuver towards Philippine sea, he said, meaning, Trillanes said that “these are ordinary moves that ships would go.” Aba, napakagaling naman ng admiral na ito. “The senator”, meaning Senator Trillanes, “was saying that Del Rosario should be replaced by Mar Roxas. Knowing that reports are coursed through the DFA, the senator said that he would give an alternate channel so that communications can go directly to the Palace.” He arrogated that to himself to become the channel of foreign policy from him to Malacanang. I do not know whether the President knows about this. “Can go ahead with bilateral; China also wants this.” He was suggesting and working for a bilateral negotiation with China. And in that meeting in the Cabinet, it was agreed that we should not do that.

I do not want to discuss anymore this sordid matter. It is enough that I read the notes of Ambassador Brady to unmask this “Phantom of the Opera” in Philippine politics. I have here his white paper on the Department of Foreign Affairs and I would not bother you about it. If you want to read it, I will give it to you and read it.

Thank you.

The President Pro Tempore. Thank you, Mr. Senate President.


Q: Sir, a news came out today that Senator (Antonio) Trillanes has been our backroom negotiator with China. What were the President’s main considerations for his designation?

SEC. LACIERDA: OK, let me put context to that first. This was during the height of the tensions between China and the Philippines and the President said let’s keep our options open. The President was approached by Senator Trillanes that there’s a way forward to hold these things, OK. And so, that’s what happened, OK. ‘Yun lang po ang nangyari doon so… But you must remember that Senator Trillanes also mentioned in an interview just now—just a while ago—that there are no disagreements between him and Secretary (Albert) del Rosario. And they have been asked by the President to refrain from making any further comments.

Q: Sir, would we say that—well, the President when he was approached by the Senator—he believed in Trillanes’ strategy? I mean, in backroom negotiations?

SEC. LACIERDA: No, it’s a… The purpose of the President is really to keep all the options open. So it seems like there were minor successes coming from the backchanneling of Senator Trillanes. But that is as much as I can say. So… But there has been no disagreement. The position of the government, the policy of the government towards our approach to Scarborough Shoal is the same. We have not changed our position there. You must remember the chief policymaker is the President.

Q: So far has he been an effective negotiator given that Secretary Del Rosario himself said that backchanneling has done more harm than good?

SEC. LACIERDA: We will withhold comment on that until further notice from the President. The President intends to speak to Senator Trillanes also.

Q: But, sir, you’re saying there’s no disagreement but I think Senator Trillanes even called the Secretary as a ‘war freak’. He has accused him of so many things—of having a tough stance against China.

SEC. LACIERDA: I think Senator Trillanes made that statement sometime in July. But so much have happened after July. So… But, if you noticed, the position of the government, the policy of the government towards the approach to the West Philippine Sea remains the same.

Q: Sir, in what way have these differences set back our goal to find a diplomatic, legal solution to the dispute?

SEC. LACIERDA: Set back?

Q: Yeah. Has it set back our… I mean, these differences between the Secretary and the Senator?

SEC. LACIERDA: No, it has not… We… If you noticed, the relationship between China and the Philippines has—and the President also said it in Vladivostok—that (it) is better now than it was during the height of the tension.

Q: And can the situation be salvaged? Like will the President ask them to sit down and talk and, well, thresh out their differences that came out in the paper?

SEC. LACIERDA: I don’t know if those differences continue to exist. What I know is that the President will speak to Senator Trillanes and also he has spoken to Secretary Del Rosario. It’s looks nice for the press two officials—high government officials—engage in discussions in media. But the President has asked both of them to refrain from making further statements until he speaks to them. He spoke to Secretary Del Rosario. He intends to speak to Senator Trillanes.

Q: Sir, sorry, fact check lang. In what capacity was Trillanes assigned to be the backroom negotiator? I mean, was it through a note verbale? Was he given a…

SEC. LACIERDA: I have no details of that.

Q: Is he still a negotiator as we speak?

SEC. LACIERDA: We will reserve comment until the President speaks to Senator Trillanes.

Q: Sir, is it the policy of the President to appoint a mole or an eyes and ears in a department? Because, you know, when we were talking also in Vladivostok he said that (former) Usec. (Rico) Puno was his eyes and ears in the DILG. And now it appears that he has another man doing backroom negotiations for the DFA.

SEC. LACIERDA: No, it’s a… Again, let me cite the context. He was approached by Senator Trillanes and tensions were high then. He wanted to keep all options open and Senator Trillanes’ approach appeared to be gaining some headway. But as to… If you’re asking me if he’s still the…backdoor negotiator, again, we will reserve comment until the President speaks to Senator Trillanes.

Q: Sir, ‘yung gains na ito, can you describe the nature of these gains?

SEC. LACIERDA: I have no details on the gains—the minor successes that were done.

Q: Sir, who told you that there were minor successes made?

SEC. LACIERDA: The President.

Q: The President said.

SEC. LACIERDA: He didn’t specify the details.

Q: Was this at the time when we pulled out our ship?

SEC. LACIERDA: I don’t know at what point did the President authorize Senator Trillanes.

Q: Sir, are you aware of the talks that Senator Trillanes has been talking about this issue to different groups and various groups when he was supposed to deal with a very confidential job—pieces of information that are not supposed to come out in public?

SEC. LACIERDA: No, we are not aware of the statements that you made. That Senator Trillanes has been making approaches?

Q: Yeah.

SEC. LACIERDA: No, we are not aware of that.

Q: Aren’t you going to verify so that you can clarify next time that a backroom negotiator is not supposed to be talkative?

SEC. LACIERDA: I will ask the President about your question. I will raise it up with him when he talks to Senator Trillanes.

Q: Well, is he aware that he can compromise a country’s position with what he’s doing?

SEC. LACIERDA: Is that a rhetorical question?

Q: Yeah it is but it’s a valid question.

SEC. LACIERDA: Again, I don’t have the details to your question. I don’t know the details of the negotiations done or the backchannel talks conducted by Senator Trillanes.

Q: Is the backroom negotiator supposed to have a briefing on foreign affairs policies and what you’re supposed to push when you’re going to a foreign country and not appear like you’re the big boss here—you’re supposed to be the one to be followed? Pati Foreign Affairs Secretary pagsasalitaan mo nang kung anu-anong ganoon?

SEC. LACIERDA: Au, I have no details on those statements that you made. I don’t have details as to the prerequisites of being a backdoor negotiator.

Q: Yeah, and another thing, so once and for all can you tell us if the Foreign Affairs Secretary has the trust and confidence of the President?

SEC. LACIERDA: The Foreign Affairs Secretary just came from Syria. He was able… He is the pointman of the President when it comes to the overseas contract workers—the concerns of the overseas contract workers—that arose from the Arab Spring and the issues in the Middle East. So, if you’re asking me: Does the Secretary of Foreign Affairs have the trust and confidence of the President? I can say that categorically.

Q: And he’s staying on top of the negotiations with China?

SEC. LACIERDA: That’s correct. That is not an issue with the President.

Q: Are you also aware of rumors that Senator Trillanes disrespected Ambassador (Sonia) Brady?

SEC. LACIERDA: No, we’re not aware of that.

Q: And that it might have caused her stroke?

SEC. LACIERDA: Again, we are not aware of that.

Q: Thank you.

SEC. LACIERDA: I just want to read a statement. I was just given a statement by Senator Trillanes. This is a statement that Senator Trillanes would like me to state for him—a text from Senator Trillanes: “I would like to clarify that SFA and I have no disagreements and I will state that PNoy through the DFA is the sole source of our foreign policy. I was merely tasked to help out deescalate the tension in Panatag and the improved situation right now is the result of a collective effort of everyone involved. But, ultimately, it was President Aquino who was calling the shots.” The statement from Senator Trillanes.

Q: Hi, sir. Follow up lang, sir. There are information, sir, that Senator Trillanes has submitted his reports and recommendations already to the President with regards to that issue, sir. Is this true, sir, and how did the President take the recommendations of Senator Trillanes?

SEC. LACIERDA: I have no information on that yet.