The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist placed Senator Antonio Trillanes in a hot seat. The incumbent Philippine senator was invited at Stephen Sackur's program 'HardTalk'.
Watch the Full Interview:
Sackur also wondered why the senator's negative comments are constantly dissimilar with the opinion of the ordinary Filipino people.
Below is the transcript of their conversation: #Enjoy
SACKUR: Antonio Trillanes in Manila, welcome to HARDtalk.
Trillanes: Hello, Stephen. Thank you very much for inviting me.
SACKUR: We speak at a difficult time for your country. In Mindanao in the south of the Philippines that you have a national emergency with a town that for weeks has faced a siege because it has been, in essence, taken over by jihadist gunman. The president says this is a national emergency and it is time for the country to unify. Do you agree?
Trillanes: I agree that what is happening in Marawi is a national crisis and something that we should deal with decisively. I feel that the armed forces, historically, have faced more difficult challenges before and they can overcome this challenge once again and I have no doubt that the armed Forces of the Philippines will subdue the Maute group.
SACKUR: A few days ago, the Finance Minister made it clear point of associating the Maute, associating them with drug crime. He said there is no doubt that much of the money they make and the way they operate comes from their involvement in organized drug trafficking. Do you agree with that?
Trillanes: That is probably the case that the question is, for the past year that they unleashed this deadly war on drugs, how come they did not touch these suspected drug lords who are supporting Maute?
SACKUR: The Finance Minister said it is time for the country to support a president who wants to see a Philippines where obedience to the law is not optional. He has imposed martial law in the area around Marawi and there is talk he may extend the area under martial law. You have called this a national crisis. I wonder if you support him at this time of crisis.
Trillanes: We support the claim that what is happening in Marawi is a national crisis in terms of the ridge of the Maute um they can wreak havoc in the country in terms of activities that may be deadly to the Filipino public. In addressing this threat of terrorism, martial law is not the cure. Because it will affect the way of life of the Filipino and at the same time it will affect negatively the economy of our country. My prescription was to enhance the capability of intelligence community in our law enforcement agencies so that we can accurately pinpoint the terrorist cells without affecting the way of life of the public.
SACKUR: Isn’t the truth that the Filipino public elected Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency because they wanted a tough guy who could impose order on the Philippines. If one looks back at the situation where he took over, that Philippine drug enforcement agency stated last year that 92% of districts in Manila, for example, were affected by drugs. The overwhelming drug of choice being crystal meth. Your country was in a parlous state and drugs crime was at the center of it and that is we do Jet set was voted in, to deal with it. -- That is why Rodrigo Duterte was voted in.
Trillanes: 98% of the districts in Manila but in the entire country, only 27% of the districts are influenced by the use of drugs. For National statistics, we only have 1.8% of the population that has used illegal drugs. Most of it marijuana, compared to the global average of 5% of the population. In effect, in fact our drug problem is not as bad as it seems. We agree that it should be addressed but it is not the primary or only problem in our country.
SACKUR: Are you a democrat Senator Trillanes?
Trillanes: And yes. I am from the nationalist party...
SACKUR: I meant in terms of commitment to democracy. It seems to me fairly clearly that Rodrigo Duterte was straightforward with the public. His platform was quite clear. I will give you one quote from his campaign. He said forget the laws on human right is. If I make it to the presidential palace um I will do what I did as mayor. You do nothings, drug pushers and hold-up men had better get out because I will kill you. I will dump you into Manila Bay and I will fatten the fish with your body is. That was his platform and he won a clear victory.
Trillanes: Yes, but during the campaign the public just thought that that was just rhetoric to make the campaign speech more dramatic. And we have set of laws. It does not mean that he said that during campaign and he was voted into office does the same, it does not give him license to kill our own people. He should still be made accountable for his actions outside the law.
SACKUR: Do you think is war on drugs is working?
Trillanes: Definitely not. As I mentioned, only the poor people and suspect did users and pushers are being killed. The running total of list would be over 9000 already. He has yet to touch the big-time drug lords who are already mentioned in the list of law enforcement agencies.
SACKUR: It is not easy for me to judge but looking at comments made by people in Manila to news agencies, they say things like the streets are safer now. Here in the Philippines we needed a ruler with an iron fist. These are quotes from the general public. That seems to be the general mood, that ratings for Rodrigo Duterte remain high with a 75% approval rating. I'm just wondering whether your comments, constantly negative, are out of tune with ordinary Filipino opinion.
Trillanes: The numbers that you mention are the latest numbers from back in March. But if you look at where those numbers were when he assumed office, it went as dropped by 17 percentage points.
SACKUR: Believe me, Senator... If a Western politician had a 75% approval rating, they would regard that as the best day of their life.
Trillanes: The bulk of the Filipino public are not really aware of what is happening on the ground. They encounter the propaganda machine of the administration is effective and the bulk of the Filipino public are living day-to-day and they do not really get to know the magnitude of the damage that Rodrigo Duterte has done that it is why historically in the Philippines, the popularity ratings go down as the information is spread to the public. I believe the numbers will continue to drop as they know more and more about the real situation.
SACKUR: Talking about the real situation, you personally seemed very committed to trying to bring legal action against President Duterte and for his past actions, particularly going back to his long-time as mere of Davao in Mindanao. Are you still offering your help to an individual who works in the so-called death squads that were operated in Davao during the time of the now president's running of the city. There is some confusion about whether you personally have intervened to safeguard Batman. What is the situation?
Trillanes: I assisted him when he appeared in the Senate. We provided security for him while he was there, while he was testifying. But when the State filed cases against him and now he is technically a fugitive, I personally do not know his whereabouts. We already have a witness that would testify.
SACKUR: You made great play of his testimony and we should remember it was very dramatic. Back in April, I think he testified that he heard Rodrigo Duterte say... And he was talking of drugs criminal suspects... Throw them in the ocean or the quarry. Make sure there are no traces of the body. There is one particular story where he claimed that Rodrigo Duterte had signed off on the murder of the pregnant wife and four-year-old child of one particular drug crime suspect. Do you really believe this testimony ND do you believe that adds up to something that should lead to legal action against Mr. Duterte, now that he is president?
Trillanes: Most definitely. I believe his testimony and even the State believe him enough that they used the testimony in the Senate to file cases against him.
SACKUR: Perhaps it is in the witness's interests now to blame Rodrigo Duterte said now for actions he himself took. The man is a self-confessed murderer many times over. It seems odd to me that you would put so much faith in a self-acknowledged mass-murderer.
Trillanes: The testimony that pinned down Mr. Lascanas was about the murder of a journalist in the Philippians. He has no interest whatsoever in the journalist, even in his testimony he was just part of the planners. He was not even the key man in that murder. And the whole country sought access to many and it is not only my own judgement that we believe, a great number of people believe him as well.
SACKUR: Duterte has said many different things at many different times and one called compare him in that way in which he is difficult to pin down to, you know, other prominent politicians of our time to use Twitter to send different messages at different times. The point about Rodrigo Duterte is that in May 2015, for example, he said "Am I the death squad? It is true. That is true." He has put his own record in front of the Filipino public, even to the point of this disgusting associations with does squad in the Filipino public decided this was the man to clean up the country. In political terms it seems to me you are bashing your head against a brick wall.
Trillanes: I am not about to give up on this, even on the Filipino. It will take some time because the propaganda of the presidential administration is getting in the way of the flow of truth to the public. It will take some time but his numbers continue to drop and I am quite confident that towards the end his numbers will be way below.
SACKUR: I asked the earlier if you were a Democrat and you feel you are. Let’s look at your track record. You twice tried to mount coups against an elected Filipino president, in that case it was back in 2003 you had an abortive coup attempt which had, well, let's face it, let's face it, only a day, and even more pathetically you made another attempt to get her out in 2007 and you ended up in prison for the best part or seven years. Are you thinking that a coup is a legitimate response again to the Philippine's current political situation?
Trillanes: Definitely not. I believe we have enough remedies for a problem like Duterte. But, let me just go back to that premise, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed power back in 2001 through a coup. They tried to cover it up with some semblance of constitutionality, but we know for a fact that she assumed power, she assumed office via a coup. Now, in Detente’s case, we have, as I mentioned, legal remedies within the Constitution and even part of the international laws like the ICC, that we can resort to resolve or rectify this anomaly that is Duterte.
SACKUR: OK, so, you say no coup on this occasion will use the law, you have been involved in the filing of an infringement complaint, that was rejected by the justice committee at the House of Representatives, so it appears to be going nowhere, and you have been involved in the courts have the International Criminal Court in the Hague examine whether Mr. Duterte has crimes against humanity. There is absolutely no indication I can see that the ICC is prepared to pick up the case, so I don't know where your faith in the law, national and international, is taking you.
Trillanes: I am quite confident that the ICC would take up the case because it falls right at the center of the essence of the ICC and probably in a few months we will see some developments. Now, as far as the impeachment is concerned, next year we can also again file an impeachment case against Mr. Duterte if we still have a democracy by then. I believe Duterte at some point will install a revolutionary government via martial law because that's the only way... That is the only kind of governance that he knows. As you mentioned, he ruled like a tyrant, like a whimsical king, so that's the world that he lives in. That's why he can't deal with active members of the opposition. He cannot deal with the objective media, both local and foreign media.
SACKUR: Do you feel safe, Mr. Trillanes, saying these things, given what you say about Mr. Detente’s style and character?
Trillanes: Well, there are things that one must do as a public servant and this is not the first time that I went up against a sitting president, a sitting vice president and a very powerful Senate President, so I believe I am just being consistent regardless of the dangers that I could probably face.
SACKUR: Well, yeah, you spent seven years in prison. Are you thinking you might spending a few more years in prison before too long?
Trillanes: Probably, the minions of Duterte has been trying to fabricate cases against me but so far nothing has worked.
SACKUR: You are talking to me from Manila and there is no doubt that in some ways Duterte represents a movement in the Philippines to change the way politics works. He has talked about Imperial Manila. He says the country has never been governed by people who really have the best interests of the poor and the disadvantaged at heart and, in particular, he says the country has never been governed before by someone from Minder now who is not obsessed with looking after the elite and the oligarchs based in Manila. He has a point, doesn’t he? He is committed to a radical poverty elimination program which will raise the poorest Filipinos, particularly in the neglected areas in the south of the country. And that appeals to many people.
Trillanes: That is the campaign rhetoric but one year from his collection into office up to this point he has yet to actually come up with an economic programmer for the poor. And, in fact, he has been killing them. So he can never say that he feels for them and that he wants them to succeed. And even Duterte himself admits that he doesn’t know anything about the economy and his economic managers have come up with this ambitious economic program that is hinged on a tax reform program that is basically inflationary and therefore anti- poor. So, more or less, we know the situation here in the Philippines, that the tide is changing. And I feel it. Even though I am very vocal against Duterte, I don't even fear for my safety as far as the ordinary Filipinos are concerned. A lot of them are starting to agree with what we have been saying.
SACKUR: OK, but look, the country is growing at pretty much 7% a year, which in the west would be regarded as a wonderful achievement. The World Bank says it expects that growth curve to continue at least through 2019. Mr. Detente’s done deals with Chinese investors which suggests $15 billion worth of Chinese investment is coming into your country. He has been crowing about the way in which, by realigning the Philippines in terms of its diplomacy and outreach, it is now great friends with China, with Russia and still has, of course, the security relationship with the United States. In a way, Duterte -ism appears to be working for the Philippines.
Trillanes: Well, on paper, as I mentioned, it may appear so. But let me just talk about the much hyped 15 billion or 24 billion deal with China. It is basically official development assistance. It is a loan that is again hinged on the passage of the tax reform plan, the tax reform Bill that the economic managers of Duterte are pushing. We in the Senate do not have any plan of passing it because it is, again, inflationary and anti- poor. So we cannot afford to give additional burden to the public and the public appreciates that.
SACKUR: Yeah, what you didn’t address was my point about these economic successes. You have a 7% growth rate which is going to continue. Just as a final point, I put it to you that for all of your fears of what Duterte mean for the Philippines, right now, viewed by many ordinary Filipinos, this guy is doing a decent job.
Trillanes: Well, that will change. As I mentioned, once more information will reach the ordinary Filipinos, they will change that impression about Duterte. I have seen it before. It may take a little while but it does happen. Now, regarding the 7% GDP, well, it is happening despite Duterte. It is fueled mostly by the remittances from overseas Filipino workers. That has been the case all these years, at least the last decade. So he cannot solely take credit for anything at this point in time. And, in fact, he promised to restore law and order but the Philippines is now more chaotic today than when he first entered into office. That is a fact.