Thursday, September 20, 2012

Philippines: True color of politics

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile
The heated exchange of harsh words between the younger Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and the octagenarian Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile at the plenary session in the Philippine Senate on Wednesday , came as a surprise to their colleagues in the chamber, and to the millions of Filipinos around the world.

This is the first time in the history of Philippine politics that a younger legislator has to stand up and engaged a Senate President in a word-war. Many people are asking as to what triggered the exchange of heated words between the two legislators? Did Trillanes by-pass his boss at the Senate?

Media reports and other sources said the verbal tussles stemmed from the sensitive issue of deliberating on a bill that would split Camarines Sur into two and the backdoor negotiations initiated by Senator Trillanes with China over the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Seas.

Sen. A. Trillanes IV
Trillanes, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, believed that Enrile had been swayed into supporting the bill that would pave the way for Congressman Luis Villafuerte's son to run for Congress, representing the new district in Camarines Sur.  How true was it, nobody knew yet. But already other senators were telling media that not all of them could be swayed to approve it.

Even before the heated argument came to fore, there was already rumors circulating in the Senate that Enrile would be replaced as the Senate President. Probably, Enrile was informed by someone close to him of the secret plan to oust him as Senate President. It wasn't immediately known if it was Trillanes who made the threats to oust Enrile.

Trillanes had accused Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte of lobbying inside the Senate halls to pave the way for his son the opportunity to run for Congress in next
year's national elections. Both Villafuerte and Enrile are members of the Sigma Rho fraternity.

Enrile allowed the younger senator to use the rostrum to ventilate his side on the issue he was raising, in the presence of the othe senators who were caught unaware of the incident. It didn't take long before the older senator took the rostrum to rebuff Trillanes, saying that the latter was upset because Enrile failed to give in to Trillanes' request for additional budget.

According to Enrile, he should be grateful to him for interceding on his behalf while Trillanes was in jail. Enrile said he only did this for Trillanes so that he could be allowed to attend the Senate sessions. It was short of telling the people that Trillanes should be grateful to him for rescuing the younger senator from the pit.

When he walked out the session hall, while Enrile was reading the notes from the late Mrs. Sonia Brady, Philippine ambassador to the Philippines, Enrile called Trillanes a fraud.  Enrile even called him a coward, too. "He walked out because he couldn't stand the heat," Enrile said.

For his part, Trillanes explained in a media interview that he didn't want to discuss issues that involves national security. The guy was referring to his backdoor
negotiations he made with China over the Scarborough Shoals in the West Philippine Seas. But the media were agog to learn about the truth over Trillanes' involvement in the backdoor negotiations?

When reached for comments, Palace officials could only say that it was Trillanes who approached President Aquino to negotiate with China. The question now is whether what Trillanes did was an interference with the negotiations being made by the Department of Foreign Affairs with China. 

On the one hand, Trillanes had insisted that he was authorized by the Palace to do the backdoor negotiations. But the Palace denied asking Trillanes' help in the negotiations, which Enrile said, took place 16 times. Whether Trillanes' trips to Beijing was funded by the Chinese government or by himself, nobody knows. Unless Trillanes would voluntarily show some proofs that his office funded his trips to China, the issue will not die down.

For the people to understand the issue at hand, political observers felt that the verbal tussle between the two legislators could have been avoided had the younger senator asked the permission of Enrile before venturing into the controversy in the Spratlys. Enrile was short of saying that the matter was the sole responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Not his or anybody else's in Congress. However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is yet to comment on the issue. This early, the Palace asked both Trillanes and the DFA secretary to tone down the issue.

While the people were waiting on the sidelines for some clalirifications from President Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa claimed that it was Trillanes who asked the Palace to send him to negotiate on the Scarborough Shoal issue with China. But dirty minds as asking: "Did he go to Beijing on his own? Or was trips funded by the Chinese government in exchange for some considerations? At this stage, nobody knows.

As to reconciliation between the two, it is unlikely, media reports said. "Why would I waste my time on someone like him?" Enrile said during a broadcast interview.

In view of these negative developments, some senators have initiated plans to let the two reconcile. Pending reconciliation, some close allies of Enrile have remarked that Trillanes should reform himself. "He thinks he is still in the military," Sen. Jinggoy Estrada was quoted as saying. In reply to what Enrile said, after Triallnes walked out of the session,  Sen. Pia Cayetano said that "Trillanes is not a coward..."

The least that some people could say is that President Aqunio may have felt the laxity of the foreign affairs department in defusing the tension that grips our claims in some disputed islands in the West Philippine Seas. Hence, he authorized the backdoor negotiations, using Trillanes.

No comments: