For someone who led a mutiny against the government, imprisoned for more than six years, ran for senator while lingering in prison, and won a Senate seat without leaving the confines of his detention cell, Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV is facing the biggest challenge in his life. This time he’s locked in battle against President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, the most powerful man in the country. That took a lot of guts. But like they say, “No guts, no glory.”
And this time around, Sonny Boy might be thinking that for one more battle to fight, he just might get to taste the sweet flavor of glory. Even for just a moment. After all, this would be like David fighting Goliath. Yes, it would certainly be a moment of sensational victory… more sensational, less victorious. And this begs the question: How is he going to repeat a battle that was more biblical than historical?
But Trillanes must have a high regard of himself. The fact that he was able to organize and lead a mutiny against the Arroyo government bespoke of a man guided by a vision of patriotism and a mission of righteousness. He must have dreamed – nay, calculated! — that whatever the denouement his mutiny might have been, he would have earned the respect of the people and rewarded with a seat on the Philippine Senate. Sonny Trillanes reached the apex of power and prominence by sheer guts.
Vice presidential run
But having a seat in the august chamber of the Senate didn’t seem to satisfy him. He tested the murky waters of politics to see if he could make the big step to the vice presidency. There was no reason that he could have failed. He still had that quixotic fervor. He was “mabango” – untainted with no record or complaint of corruption – and he must have been very confident of himself of facing a packed field of vice-presidential wannabes, among which was the heir to the Marcos loot, then Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Little did Sonny know that amongst his rivals for the vice-presidency were two young ladies, one wearing the “yellow” color of the Liberal Party and the other wearing white polo shirt that seemed to suggest “purity of character.”
Trillanes failed miserably in the vice-presidential race due mainly to lack of funds and lack of organization, The other, Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, who was an early front-runner but she fell out of the race because she couldn’t unload the “excess baggage” that her rivals accused her of.
In the end, the “yellowista” Leni Robredo, the widow of the popular late Jess Robredo, won the vice-presidency. She defeated Bongbong Marcos by some 200,000 votes. The small margin of Leni’s victory gave Bongbong enough reason to file an electoral protest and recount, which is now before the Supreme Court acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Undaunted by his political setback, Trillanes took his anti-corruption crusade to the Senate. Last February, Trillanes dropped a bombshell when he claimed that Duterte had secret bank accounts. He challenged Duterte to disprove allegations that he had P2 billion in transactions in three bank branches from 2006 to 2015. He also claimed that Duterte’s common-law wife Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña had almost P200 million in bank transactions between 2004 and 2009. Duterte denied the allegations.
Trillanes then asked the Office of the Ombudsman to release Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) records showing Duterte’s flagged transactions in various bank accounts. AMLC denied Trillanes’ request.
Last September, Duterte claimed that Trillanes had “a lot” of bank accounts abroad – in Hong Kong, Australia, and the U.S. Trillanes called it “fake news” and Duterte a liar.
Trillanes meets Rubio
The Duterte-Trillanes feud has gone international when Duterte accused Trillanes of being a “traitor.” The accusation is based on what U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said in a tweet: “Senator @TrillanesSonny & I discussed U.S.- #Philippines alliance, combating corruption & protecting #humanrights amid their narcotics crisis.”
Trillanes confirmed he met with senior US government officials, including Senator Rubio during his recent trip to the U.S. He said his meeting with Rubio focused on “enhancing RP-US relations, corruption, and the human rights situation in the Philippines,” which is pretty much what Rubio said in his tweet.
Trillanes also denied a newspaper report that he went to the U.S. to convince officials to stop the state visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, which is scheduled for November.
But in a radio interview last October 22, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar was asked to comment on whether Trillanes should be charged with “treason.” Andanar said it would be up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to study such “legal matters.”
It’s interesting to note that last year, Rubio and two other U.S. senators wrote a letter to the U.S. State Department after they visited the Philippines. They expressed “grave concern about the campaign of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations under the Duterte administration.”
In response to Andanar’s comments, Trillanes – Duterte’s toughest critic — said he “pushed for the interests of our country, which are not necessarily the same as the interests of Duterte.”
Act of treason
While the verbal exchange between Trillanes and Andanar had remained civil, Duterte’s hordes of social media netizens and trolls attacked Trillanes accusing him of treason, which begs the question: Where is all this leading?
It is a known fact that Duterte hates Trillanes for a variety of reasons. Foremost of which are the “war on drugs,” extrajudicial killings, alleged corruption by members of Duterte’s family, and corruption by administration officials. He even went as far as to accuse Duterte’s son, Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, of being a member of a Chinese triad that smuggles the illegal drug “shabu” into the country.
Although Duterte’s “war on drugs” has so far eliminated more than 10,000 drug users, these are mainly poor people. Powerful politicians are believed to be protecting operators of “shabu” manufacturing laboratories.
Last October 11, Trillanes described the draft report on the P6.4 billion “shabu” shipment from China being routed by Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon as a “mere cover-up.” He said that those behind the entry of the “shabu” shipment are not being held answerable to the law. “Suspected drug pushers and users are wantonly killed in the streets while the people behind the illegal drug smuggling are merely subjected to a lifestyle check. This is a clear case of cover-up by Senator Richard Gordon to please his political master,” Trillanes said. [Source: SunStar Manila, 10-11-17]
Last October 19, Trillanes filed an ethics complaint against Gordon for committing “slander” and “unparliamentary acts.” Trillanes said Gordon called him a “peddler of gossip” in a Senate blue ribbon hearing on the P6.4-billion worth of smuggled “shabu” on August 31. But it was Gordon who first filed an ethics complaint against Trillanes who had threatened to file plunder charges against Gordon over alleged corruption in the Red Cross.
And now, the DOJ is going to look into Trillanes’ alleged treasonous act because of his meeting with Rubio in the U.S. If the DOJ determines that there is a probable cause to file charges of treason against Trillanes, then the DOJ could initiate a detention order against Trillanes. And once again Trillanes could find himself behind bars for the second time in his life… and probably for life, too.
Which makes one wonder: Is a “demolition job” against Trillanes in the works?