ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV should be charged with treason for dealing with China, which he said resulted in China taking control of Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea, leading presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said in a campaign rally here.
Duterte said this at the Mayor Agan Coliseum on Monday night.
He said Trillanes went to China 16 times for backdoor discussion without the knowledge of the military and police.
“After the 16 trips, China started to construct. Walang isang Navy na pumunta doon and the government was not acting,” Duterte said. “It was really him, the traitor.” Duterte said of Trillanes.
Art. 114 of the Revised Penal Code punishes treason, which is defined as “[levying] war against the Philippines or [adhering] to her enemies giving them aid or comfort within the Philippines or elsewhere”, with reclusion perpetua and a fine of up to P100,000.
Duterte also questioned Trillanes’ authority to talk to China and accused President Benigno Aquino III as being behind the trips.
The mayor recalled that Trillanes led the Oakwood mutiny against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003 and was charged with rebellion, a non-bailable offense, but was released during under the Aquino administration.
“Who freed him? It’s PNoy. Who authorized him to [go to] China? E di si PNoy,” Duterte said, referring to the president by his preferred nickname.
Trillanes and other members of the Magdalo group, who were charged with coup d’etat, were granted amnesty in 2011 by a presidential proclamation that Congress ratified.
‘China approached Trillanes’
In 2012, Aquino said that the back-channel talks, which Chinese representatives initiated while Trillanes was visiting China, were meant to defuse tension over a standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Panatag Shoal — another name for Scarborough, which is also called Bajo de Masinloc.
A Philippine Navy ship had apprehended suspected Chinese poachers there, but the attempt to apprehend the crew led to the standoff. The Navy ship was pulled out and was replaced by a Coast Guard patrol ship.
“When the standoff at the Panatag Shoal occurred, the formal channel (of the Chinese) was very belligerent. It was in the tone of their ambassador that they were asserting their ‘indisputable historical right’ to Scarborough Shoal,” Aquino said in 2012.
Aquino said the reduction in the number of Chinese ships in the area to two from a high of almost a hundred could be credited to Trillanes.
Aquino noted China sent so many vessels to Panatag Shoal while Manila only sent a few.
“I recall that they (Chinese) initially sent 18 fishing boats that reached to 30, then they sailed off from the area. We could probably credit the efforts of Senator Trillanes,” Aquino said.
This is not the first time that Trillanes’ involvement in back-channel talks with China earned him criticism. The senator was in a fiery word war with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in 2012 over the incident.
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