MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday walked out of the Senate session hall while being questioned by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on his role as a backroom negotiator of the Philippines with China on the conflict over Scarborough Shoal.
Trillanes earlier withdrew from the Senate majority, saying he has lost confidence in Enrile's leadership.
This prompted Enrile to question Trillanes' role in conducting backdoor talks with Chinese officials. He said Trillanes even called Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario a "traitor" for his (Del Rosario's) position on Scarborough Shoal.
Trillanes refused to answer Enrile's questions and said the Senate President was out of order.
He then walked out as Enrile started reading the notes of former Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady about her meeting with Trillanes and del Rosario last August 17.
"He cannot take the heat. He's a coward," Enrile said as Trillanes walked out.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano tried to pacify the situation, noting the disclosure may affect “national security.”
Enrile retorted: “I’ve been in charge before on national security way before you were born.”
Enrile accused Trillanes of telling "falsehoods" to Chinese officials which, he said, were detrimental to the country and del Rosario.
Using Brady’s notes as basis, Enrile said Trillanes was selling the country’s sovereignty to the Chinese.
"It's enough that I read these notes of Ambassador Brady to unmask this Phantom of the Opera in Philippine politics,” he said.
Brady’s notes, dated August 2012, were written before she was sent back to the Philippines after she suffered a stroke.
Trillanes was allegedly trying to mollify the Chinese by insisting that the United States had already left its alliance with the country.
The senator, a former military officer, also allegedly told the Chinese that del Rosario no longer had the confidence of the Filipino people. Trillanes also allegedly said del Rosario was internationalizing the territorial dispute.
Enrile said Trillanes even told the Chinese that nobody in the Philippines cares about Scarborough shoal.
“Trillanes told the Chinese: we can’t enforce our coastal protection. Our fishermen are living in subsistence fishing….Pilipino ba yan, makabayan ba yan? My god, what kind of senator is this?” a fuming Enrile said.
Binay, MVP’s names dragged into controversy
Reading Brady's notes, Enrile said Trillanes, at one point, even asked businessman Manny Pangilinan to try to cajole del Rosario into softening his stance on the dispute with China.
Brady said Trillanes knew Pangilinan and del Rosario go way back, and that it was del Rosario who introduced Pangilinan to Indonesian shareholders for his purchase of the Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT). Trillanes supposedly said that del Rosario was the one who threatened the Yuchengco group to sell their stake in PLDT.
Nonetheless, Trillanes supposedly alleged that del Rosario was not for any peaceful settlement with China because he wants to boost Pangilinan’s chances in the exploration of the Recto Bank in the South China Sea. That part is also being claimed by China.
Trillanes also supposedly asked the Chinese which official in the country they would prefer talking to as an “alternative channel.” The Chinese officials supposedly asked for Vice President Jejomar Binay.
It was then that Trillanes suggested the name of Mar Roxas to become the channel between the Chinese and Malacañang. He also suggested that Roxas become DFA chief.
“He’s even intriguing the president and the vice president,” Enrile said.
Enrile did not finish reading Brady’s notes, saying there are still “sordid” details left. He also did not read anymore a “white paper” supposedly disseminated by Trillanes against the DFA.
Enrile said Trillanes had “arrogated” unto himself the role of handling foreign relations.
He said Trillanes met with the Chinese 16 times “quietly, secretly, clandestinely.”
“What did he talk with them? Who initiated the talks? Did they pay for his trip to Beijing?” Enrile asked, noting Trillanes left the Senate session since he knew he would be asked on such matters..
In response to the clash in the Senate, Del Rosario said: "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 West Philippine Sea."
'China to gain from squabble'
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon believes Enrile should have exercised more prudence in reading from a transcript of what happened during a top-secret meeting with leaders of the country trying to find solutions to the China standoff.
He said that the Senate President could have given away state secrets by revealing what could be top secret information and strategy.
With the on going battle Senate squabble, China could be the main beneficiary of such revelations, Biazon, a former military chief, said.