PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is angry at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. Okay, I would rephrase that. The president has long been angry at Trillanes. It’s just that he is at his angriest now. That is why his supporters are also hurling all the muck they could gather at the senator. I am sure Trillanes is now the most hated figure in Duterte land. Even among the members of the pro-Duterte majority in the Senate.
Perhaps Trillanes’s biggest “sin” was when he went all out against Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, and lawyer Mans Carpio, the President’s son-in-law (husband of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte) during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing into the recent smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu.
Even as the committee chair, Sen. Richard Gordon, was hesitant to invite Paolo and Carpio to the hearing, Trillanes didn’t hold his punches. His style of questioning was no different than the way many senators have acted in previous hearings, but because it was done against those close to the president it was hurting. More so when he came up with a damaging accusation against Paolo.
Trillanes’s dare for Paolo to show the tattoo on his back and Paolo’s refusal to do so became the subsequent subject of debate among netizens, but it only became so because the dare rode on the insinuation that Paolo is a member of a Chinese triad. The senator didn’t have pieces of evidence to back that up but talk about a tattoo proving membership in a triad titillated people’s imagination.
Note that the accusation was made amid the swirl of stories that began with Customs fixer Mark Taguba, the Senate’s “resource person” in the drug smuggling, mentioning a “Davao Group” that supposedly facilitated the shipment and people name-dropping Paolo and Carpio. From there on, previous rumors/claims of Paolo’s alleged links to illegal drugs were dredged. Then came that triad claim.
What made this accusation more telling is that it was made following the killings of minors Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz by Caloocan policemen, which put into question the conduct by the Duterte administration of its war on drugs. Critics thus pounced on the Paolo issue to question how government can be so brutal on mere drug users or pushers and not on those close to the president.
In response, the so-called DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporters) and the army of trolls linked to them ganged up on Trillanes, with some of them creating the fake news on the senator’s supposed hidden bank accounts abroad. Trillanes is the poorest member of the Senate according to his statement of assets liabilities and net worth, so the accusation is intended to make him look corrupt.
The problem with this strategy is that, unlike Sen. Leila de Lima, who can be faulted for her past relationship with her driver, Trillanes’s faults, if any, seem difficult to pin down. His confidence that the bank accounts claim, which the president picked up, would not be proven is shown by his signing waivers so probers can open the supposed accounts.
I say that the battle of accusations has been a draw so far. The Duterte camp need strong enough proof to back up its claims against Trillanes even as Trillanes himself need strong enough proof to pin down Paolo.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 13, 2017.
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