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Amid snowstorm Chicagoans hear visiting Sen. Trillanes on EJKs

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (right) listening to a question. PINOY/Grace Garcia Szpytma

CHICAGO — Some two dozen Filipino Americans braved 12 inches of snow on Feb. 9 to hear Senator Antonio Trillanes IV speak about “the more than 10,000 extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under President Duterte” at the Hana Center in this city.

The senator was in town to visit family, but he took the opportunity to meet with the local Filipino community.

He has been a staunch critic of President Duterte’s response to the drug epidemic in the Philippines.

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Forum facilitator, Jerry Clarito, told attendees, “Did you know that the senator is being targeted by President Duterte because he is his principal adversary?”

“President Duterte has ordered people to have me killed, but for some reason I’m still around and it may mean that I have a mission and a purpose to serve,” Trillanes shared.

“I’m here to give you an update about what’s happening in the Philippines. The EJKs are not about eliminating drug pushers. It is about him being able to control people,” the senator added.

“President Duterte is accountable for all of the deaths. He has used the Philippine police as a killing machine.”

Clarito then asked, “The president has recently admitted that he is a dictator.  What will happen in the next coming months?”

Trillanes was visiting family in Chicago but agreed to meet with members of the Filipino community. PINOY/Grace Garcia Szpytma

“What we have is a creeping dictatorship,” Trillanes answered. ”Duterte’s ultimate agenda is to set up a totalitarian regime.  This is how he ruled Davao and this is how he would want to rule the Philippines.”

He made it clear that despite all of the president’s efforts, people are speaking up.

“His survey numbers will go down because at some point, Duterte will cross a red line with the Filipinos. He will be politically emasculated. Politicians will jump to the other fence and invest some goodwill for the next administration. We will not give up this fight for the rights of our kababayans. “

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The next step would be to file crimes against humanity with the ICC, said Trillanes.  They will study the allegations and then investigate. Then they can indict him.

Recently, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it would perform a preliminary investigation on President Duterte’s EJKs based on numerous complaints.

Chicagoans pose with Senator Antonio Trillanes after a community forum. PINOY/Grace Garcia Szpytma

Trillanes had some advice for Pinoys in the U.S. “You need to tell the truth and influence the people who can still be influenced. We are gaining ground.”

A forum guest said, “My friends ask why you are so against Duterte, and they said that you wanted to be his vice president and that he rejected you.”

Sen. Trillanes responded, “I met to talk with Grace Poe and Rodrigo Duterte individually when I was interested in finding a running mate as a vice president.

“When I met with Duterte, he bragged about how many people he executed.  I was not impressed. I thought to myself that this person should never become president.”

“Why is he doing this? Because he is sick. His mental assessment shows that he is psychologically imbalanced.”

On the question, “Should Senator Trillanes find a way to collaborate with the president in finding a solution to the drug problem?”

“He has already committed many deaths that he has to be responsible for and to pay for. We need to continue checking his abuses. Criticizing him is what I am doing for the country,” Trillanes answered.

“I am in the opposition, but I was never an obstructionist.  I supported his budget,” he said.

Eric and Amy (last names withheld upon request) drove to the snow-bound city from outlying Naperville to support their former classmate, the senator.

“We believe in what [Sen. Trillanes] says. We’ve known him before he was a senator,” Eric said.

Al Cabagnot, president of the Filipino American Grandparents Association of Chicago (FAGPAC), said that he wanted to know the other side of the story.

“I heard about my nephew who was caught with drugs and all of his barkada were killed except for him because his father was a police officer,” Cabagnot explained.

Having been often a lonely fiscalizer of the regime, the senator appreciated his listeners’ encouraging comments.

A formal Naval officer who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), Sen. Trillanes has authored, co-sponsored and filed more bills than any other senator thus far.

In 2003, he was incarcerated for seven years for protesting with his PMA officers against the alleged corruption of the former Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.

He was eventually granted pardon by Former President Benigno Aquino III.

He successfully ran for senator and won from his jail cell.

Hosted by the Filipino American Human Rights Advocate (FAHRA) and Circa Pintig, the forum was moderated by Joseph Lariosa of JGL Global Link, Marlon Tecson, conference coordinator and Jerry Clarito, community organizer.

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TAGS: Circa Pintig, Duterte critic, Duterte opponent, extrajudicial killings, Filipino American Human Rights Advocate (FAHRA), human rights violations, ICC, Jerry Clarito, JGL Global Link, Joseph Lariosa, Marlon Tecson, Philippine politics, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
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