It might be time for “senator” Antonio Trillanes to seek political asylum in the United States. After all, he sees himself as “persecuted” and the subject of attempts to “silence” him. In the West, that indeed constitutes “political persecution” and is enough grounds to consider providing refuge to the “senator”. But will Trillanes’s case meet the criteria sufficiently enough to enable such a hypothetical bid for asylum to prosper?
That does not seem to be a promising prospect. There seems to be no real evidence that the Philippine government has mounted initiatives meant to impinge upon basic rights to personal expression and political dissent that Trillanes insists it is engaging in.
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Indeed, Trillanes himself has taken a lot of liberties speaking his mind at every forum willing to provide him a soapbox to stand on. He has also travelled extensively to meet with “sympathetic” patrons to his cause which include certain European rapporteurs and even US senators who were critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the past. Trillanes, it seems, has spent inordinate amounts of time and resources travelling overseas for various publicity stunts and to stir up support from foreign governments and non-government organisations for his “cause”. He seems to have forgotten that he is, first and foremost, a Philippine senator on paper and actually is in a solid position to address and act on his concerns within the immediate setting of his office. As such, one can’t help but wonder whether these overseas “projects” and schmoozefests with foreign honchos manifests a disturbing lack of confidence in his own country’s system of governance to provide sufficient venue to pursue his agenda.
Rather, Trillanes has, instead, banked on what he sees to be a more influential backer — that of foreign interests — and, in the process, has relegated the true source of his mandate — that of the Filipino people closer to home — to validate the credibility of his vision (if it can even be called that) to a small footnote in his thesis. In short, Trillanes has, in the course of seeking endorsement from foreign entities, merely highlighted the bald reality that the Philippines remains a mere vassal state of its former Imperial masters — one that could not function without the tacit approval of their overlords.
This is likely because, in reality, Trillanes lacks credibility before his own people. A video taken during a forum in which he spoke before the Filipino-American community during his recent visit to the US shows him facing a “hostile crowd”. It got to a point, during this forum, where the host had to tell a member of the audience to “shut up” and “get out”.
There is, therefore, some evidence that Trillanes has stopped listening to his own constituents and has taken it upon himself to unhinge his agenda from any semblance of sensibility and fuel its pursuit mainly on the energy he derives from his own personal hubris and vindictive character.
Recall that this is not the first time Trillanes was given a reality check by an observer not picked from within the little echo chamber he has cocooned himself within. Back in June, Trillanes was taken to task for the lack of coherence in his agenda in a confronting interview with BBC journalist Stephen Sackur.
In that episode of his talk show HARDtalk, Sackur did not mince words. He first got Trillanes to confirm that he is an avowed democrat then proceeded to grill him on the matter further citing the inconsistency of this vow to uphold democratic rule with his track record of launching coup d’etats (notably described by Sackur as “pathetic” in the way they lasted for no more than a day or two) against a duly-elected president, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through the 2000s.
On that single point, Sackur built a consistently-themed conversation with Trillanes. He kept referring to the simple fact that Duterte had, during his campaign for the presidency, been fully up front about what he envisions his rule will be like, laying on the table every gory detail of the way he plans to make good on his promises to run roughshod over every obstacle — even over “human rights” — to fulfill his mandate to clean up his country. That he won the presidential election with all those ideas laid out before the public to digest is, as Sackur points out more than a few times during the interview, democracy at work.
Today, “the majority of Filipinos seem to like his iron fist,” Sackur observes. From there, more pointed questions were fielded by Sackur in rapid succession. One of his most difficult questions to Trillanes was, around whether or not his efforts to take down the Duterte administration were in tune with ordinary Filipinos’ sentiments. Sackur even went as far as describing Trillanes’s comments on the Philippine government as “constantly negative” in that light. Trillanes could only stammer out a response that merely speculated about where Duterte’s numbers could go in the mid-term. Without any actual logic or facts to support or substantiate his claims that Duterte’s popularity cannot be sustained, Trillanes could only insist that he was “confident” that Duterte’s days are numbered.
There is enough evidence to conclude that Trillanes’s actions and initiatives of late do not have the broader interests of his constituents in mind but more that of a small clique of groups who are threatened by the erosion of the status quo that they have long benefited from. Indeed, TIME “journalist” Joseph Hincks in a recent article described him as a “principal adversary” of Duterte which pretty much makes him the de facto Opposition leader of the moment and highlights the truth about the real motive behind his activities. But Trillanes is, supposedly, a “senator” — a role that requires that one do things primarily in aid of legislation. Filipinos need to ask this “senator” an important question in that light:
What exactly is the legislative agenda that frames Trillanes’s recent activities?
Simple answers should suffice. After all, it is often the simplest answers that make the most sense. Perhaps the real answer to that question as far as we have observed is just one word: Nothing.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.