MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday continued to harangue Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on his clandestine meetings with Chinese officials as back-channel negotiator of President Benigno Aquino III.
Speaking to ANC’s Headstart, Enrile said it is the prerogative of the President to appoint anyone as his back-channel negotiator if the official diplomatic channels fail.
However, he labeled Trillanes’ meetings as suspicious and dangerous since there is no written report on what was discussed and accomplished during the trips.
“You cannot fault the president for trying to find a solution to a national problem especially a problem such as we're having with China but the person entrusted by the President with any mission must exercise discretion,” he said.
He added: "The person assigned to those things must know what he is doing. Based on these statements enumerated in the notes of Mrs. Brady, the gentleman involved was ignorant of the nuances of being a representative of the President."
Enrile listed several of Trillanes’ alleged mistakes such as pushing for a bilateral approach in the talks with China as well as accusing Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario of treasonous acts.
He called out the senator for his failure to ask the Senate leadership’s permission to go to China, his failure to inform the Philippine Embassy in Beijing about his visit, and his failure to submit any written report about his meetings with China.
“Every senator leaving the country, whether it is government-funded or privately funded, must seek the permission of the Senate president,” he said.
He expressed doubts that Trillanes had his passport stamped when leaving the country on his secret mission.
Enrile also voiced suspicion on how Trillanes was able to start back-channel talks with the Chinese.
“How did he develop a channel to go to China just like that knocking at the door of the Chinese government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, unless he had a previous contact with them or they contacted him? I do not believe that China contacted him. I imagine he must have contact with some people in China or with the Chinese government beforehand. This is a dangerous thing because we must know this background,” he said.
He also criticized the senator for telling Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Sonia Brady not to take notes during their meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
In the interview, Enrile also showed the alleged Brady notes that he referred to in his speech against Trillanes.
The Senate President showed Headstart host Karen Davila the document but refused to give a copy. He also insisted that the notes did not contain state secrets, despite a clear stamp on the documents that said “secret.”
“This is not a confidential matter. This should be known to the people,” he said.
Enrile said another classified document in Filipino was appended to the Brady notes. He refused to say who gave the notes but said it also touched on Trillanes’ trips to China.
President Aquino has confirmed that Trillanes was his backchannel negotiator to China at the height of tensions with Scarborough Shoal.
In the interview, Enrile denied that the allegations against Trillanes were meant to shroud his earlier expose on the Senate President’s alleged support for the gerrymandering of Camarines Sur.
Enrile denied Trillanes’ accusation that he is a lackey of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
He also denied support for the CamSur bill but noted that he would probably vote for it and let the people decide the fate of the province through a plebiscite.