SEN. ANTONIO TRILLANES IV is no Leila de Lima. That is something that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte must have realized by now. Another point on the Trillanes matter: the president is no longer as popular now as during the time when he went hammer and thongs against de Lima early in his rule.
One could sense the president’s obsession with Trillanes in his “talk show” with his legal adviser Salvador Panelo aired last Tuesday. He still talked about the senator even if Panelo had shifted topic. The attempt to rationalize his latest moves against the man and his effort to demonize him were giveaways.
Rumors have it that the president actually ordered a research on Trillanes but his researchers found nothing. The man is a straight arrow even in his personal affairs unlike de Lima who got pulled down by her affair with her driver. So Solicitor General Jose Calida went the other way by concocting a legal fiction.
The president’s proclamation nullifying the amnesty given to Trillanes by former president Benigno Aquino III has desperation written all over it. The lies about the supposed failure by Trillanes and the Aquino administration to follow the amnesty process sounded convincing until the senator and the others were able to provide proof that effectively exposed the lies.
Trillanes has so far been able to parry the attacks mainly because he is in the right and partly because of the support he is getting both from a segment of the military and from political and civil groups. Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana only offered grudging support to the Calida-Duterte caper.
The truth is, despite efforts by the Duterte administration and its army of trolls called the diehard Duterte supporters (DDS) to demonize Trillanes and portray him as a coward and an unpopular military officer, the man is undeterred and actually has the support of a faction of the military that is not supportive of the recent actions of their commander-in-chief.
That faction may be silent for now but its presence can’t be overlooked. If the lessons of previous coup tries are to be learned, only a small spark is enough to fire up the silent. And we are only talking here about the military. Because even in the Philippine National Police (PNP) there are factions that are not happy with the way the organization is being run.
This is the reason the president has backed off from his previous aggressive moves against Trillanes. He initially ordered Trillanes’s arrest even with only the proclamation to back the order but has now said he would wait for the courts to issue a warrant for Trillanes’s arrest.
Going after Trillanes is a tricky position for the Duterte government especially now that the president’s popularity is going down because of his failure to make good his campaign promises and the economic woes the country is currently in. A simple misstep on this one could be fatal for his rule.
As for Duterte’s claim that Trillanes’s Magdalo is working with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to oust him, I would believe the denial issued by CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison. I don’t think the link is formal. Instead, the CPP would only be exploiting the Duterte-Trillanes rift from outside.