The confrontation between Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Juan Miguel Zubiri at the Senate floor last week refreshed the public’s mind of relevant issues which have been relegated to the sidelines by more horrifying reports like the murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo by police officers inside Camp Crame just a few meters away from the office of Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa.
This is not the first time that Trillanes and Zubiri clashed. Way back in 2007, when Zubiri edged out Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III from the winning circle of senatorial candidates with manufactured votes from Maguindanao, Trillanes, who won while in detention, said “I believe Congressman Zubiri knows deep in his heart that he benefited from cheating. If he is decent enough, he wouldn’t accept victory in the Senate race because that is not something you want your kids to emulate.”
Zubiri called Trillanes “a loose cannon” and “immature” and threatened to sue the Navy-officer-turned-rebel-turned-senator.
Zubiri occupied the Senate seat that was not his for four years before he gave it up after Pimentel’s election protest prospered.
Last Tuesday, the tiff was over the resolution filed by Senator Franklin Drilon for the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Conduct headed by Trillanes to investigate the P50 million bribery scandal involving officials of the Bureau of Immigration officials, two of them fraternity brothers of President Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.
Zubiri opposed it as he wanted the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights headed by Senator Richard Gordon to probe the bribery.
Trillanes, in a media interview, voiced his concern that Gordon and Zubiri would “whitewash” the bribery scandal. Zubiri resented his being referred to as a Duterte defender in the Senate and recalled Trillanes’ record as a rebel officer.
Zubiri’s use of the label “rebel officer” to get back at Trillanes is like the foolish monkey threatening the clever turtle that he would be thrown into the water.
In July 2003, Trillanes and more than 300 officers and soldiers stood up against the government of Gloria Arroyo demanding an end to corruption in the military. They made a stand at the then Oakwood Hotel in Makati.
In November 2007, Trillanes with fellow Magdalo officers, walked out of the court hearing in Makati City Hall and marched to demand the resignation of Arroyo who was embroiled with the “Hello Garci” scandal and election fraud in the 2004 elections. They seized Manila Peninsula where they held their stand until their surrender in the evening.
In a privilege speech, Trillanes took the issues Zubiri raised head on:
“First, Yes, I was accused of rebellion and proud of it; I believe it is one of the shining moments in my life. So it's a badge of honor.”
As to Senate investigation of the overpriced Makati City Hall parking, Trillanes said, Senate President Koko Pimentel was the chairman of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that conducted the probe. “If there are some insinuations that it was a propaganda or just an attack on the person of the Vice President, it should also be directed to the Senate President,” he said.
As to the issue that he accused President Duterte of having P200 million in the bank, Trillanes corrected Zubiri. “Well let me correct the gentleman, he (Duterte) had P2 billion in deposits. So that’s a correction. It would be presented later on and in fact, it is one of the attached documents of the plunder case I filed against the President at the Office of the Ombudsman.”
Trillanes’ exposé of Duterte’s BPI account (jointly held with daughter, Sara, Davao city mayor), which were not reflected in his 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN), made during the last few weeks of the 2016 election campaign, is one issue that continues to rankle Duterte. That’s the reason for his hostility towards the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) officials suspecting them of being the source of the senator’s documents.
Trillanes has never been known to put popularity and personal comfort over matters he strongly believes in. That separates him a mile wide from Zubiri.
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