Trillanes tells Fil-Ams Duterte is undermining PH democracy
DALY CITY, Californian – Filipino Americans in the San Francisco Bay area with opposing political views came together in a forum with Filipino Senator and government critic Antonio Trillanes IV as a guest speaker.
A local United Methodist church became the venue for a healthy exchange of opinions despite unruliness on the part of a few supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Trillanes, perhaps the fiercest, most visible and outspoken critic of President Duterte addressed about 170Fil-Ams in a forum organized by the FilipinoAmerican Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) “Confronting the Threats Against Human Rights and Democracy in the Philippines.”
Trillanes rattled threats to human rights in the Philippines ever since President Duterte allegedly launched anti-democratic attacks on institutions and political opponents after assuming power.
“By using the Davao template of obtaining absolute control of every segment of society, he turned the Philippine National Police (PNP) into his own killing machine to employ shock and awe tactics against his own people,” Trillanes alleged.
“For this he used the narrative that drug pushers and addicts are the scourge of society that must be exterminated that resulted to more than 10,000 suspects and/or innocent victims being summarily killed either by policemen or by unknown assailants. Yet based on records of the Department of Justice only 37 cases are being investigated and of these only three have been recommended for prosecution,” Trillanes continued.
Trillanes then described the House of Representatives as a rubber stamp of the President with the Senate being relatively independent and the foremost instrument for checks and balances.
“But because of Duterte’s notoriety for being politically vindictive, his high approval ratings, plus his subtle threats that any politician could end up in his mysterious drug lit, the Senators quietly folded. The capitulation of both houses of Congress virtually granted impunity for Duterte and his minions,” lamented Trillanes.
Trillanes also blasted Duterte for not sparing the justice system by allegedly perverting the justice department to persecute and detain Senator Leila de Lima on fabricated charges to send chills down the spines on the rest of the opposition.
“That the Supreme Court had been notoriously acquiescent with the Duterte administration in its decision is not totally surprising given the fact that it is now packed with new appointees (of President Duterte) as well as appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a staunch Duterte supporter,” Trillanes continued.
“Just last month the House of Representatives initiated impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno while Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, a highly respected public servant, is constantly threatened with impeachment and investigation by a Malacañang-created anti-corruption agency.”
Trillanes maintains that Duterte in just 16 months has weakened practically all democratic institutions and now has almost total control of every sector of Philippine society. He says that the traditionally stable Catholic Church has been undermined, divided and maligned by Duterte and rendered an ineffective societal moral compass, while credible mainstream media outfits are being harassed, their owners’ business interests threatened, or their media outfits threatened with non-renewal of licenses.
With Duterte’s strong, charismatic. almost cult-like appeal, Trillanes believes that the electorate fell victim to a populist’s ability to raise hopes and confidence among the masses with deceptive propaganda.
“The best weapon against it is the truth. Keep on pounding on the truth, then sooner or later the people will open their eyes to the lies and deceit that have blinded them in the first place,” Trillanes urged.
In a press briefing before the forum, Trillanes shared that the officer corps of the Armed Forces are generally supportive of the commander-in-chief, not particularly concerned about the political rhetoric from both sides, and will follow the president as long as he gives legal orders or those based on the Constitution. But officers will draw the line once Duterte gives an illegal order, Trillanes believes.
Trillanes also reiterated that he did not meet with the Central Intelligence Agency, and did not divulge any information on his meeting with Senator Marco Rubio other than what has been reported in the media. The Filipino senator didn’t flinch before the charge of treason by Duterte supporters.
“Nobody was there in the meeting with Senator Rubio, nobody gave a transcript of what were discussed so nobody could possibly say that what I said was detrimental to the interest of the country. Isn’t it Duterte himself who is destroying our image?” Trillanes said, and the audience applauded.
Trillanes accused Duterte of speaking strongly against illegal drugs while not touching the big drug lords who really mattered, and that the president uses the drug war to deflect any suspicions of his or his family’s involvement in drugs.
“The Dangerous Drugs Board says 1.8% of the population is exposed to illegal drugs including marijuana. And of this number, only .18% are heavily addicted to shabu compared to the global average of 5% per country. Not to minimize the dangers of drug use, but our numbers are nowhere near the level of the average of any other country in the world. We cannot address the problem by killing addicts arbitrarily based on an imagined list because no one can be so sure that the person being killed is beyond redemption or is exposed to drug addiction in the first place,” Trillanes argued.
Trillanes also clarified that the figure of 10,000 victims of extrajudicial killings he mentioned came from the Philippine National Police itself during the Senate investigation.
“Even following the figures cited by (Foreign Affairs) Secretary (Alan) Cayetano at 4,000, it is still 4,000 and we cannot trivialize things as they died when Duterte adopted this policy on his war on drugs. Most of them did not resist arrest at all which makes these summary executions,” Trillanes insists.
On the still high popularity of Duterte, Trillanes stressed to loud applause that “it is not all about the popularity but rather it is about what is right and wrong.”
“When Vice President (Jejomar) Binay was first investigated, he had a higher approval rating than Duterte and everybody was saying he was very popular yet he was wrong. And eventually a lot of people saw through that,” Trillanes observed. “With Duterte, his current net satisfaction/approval rating is down to 48%. The point is it is going down and will continue to go down.”
Disabled Fred Crisostomo, originally from Bulacan who wanted to go back home to the Philippines like many other Fil-Ams, asked if there was any possibility that Trillanes would talk with Duterte and settle everything so that those who wanted to go back home could go to a more peaceful Philippines.
“I believe that my personal relationship with Mr. Duterte is irrelevant. We can be friends, but it will not change the fact that he has killed people personally and that he has ordered people killed because of this policy on the war on drugs. He needs to be made accountable for his actions. That is what I am doing, and I will leave it up to the people to decide. In a democracy, the opposition is very vital because that is the only way that you would be able to see all the different perspectives so that you won’t be blindsided,” replied Trillanes.
The forum ended with a question and answer segment that saw a fierce exchange of ideas between Trillanes and a group of Duterte supporters who were relatively peaceful except for some rowdy moments that led to at least one Duterte supported being tossed out of the room. Some were not being able to their questions due to a longe queue and time constraints,
One Digong Davao Supporter (DDS) of Northern California chapter head Kelly Dayag said he was frustrated because he was not allowed to ask his follow-up question.
WATCH: Sen. Antonio Trillanes speaks to Fil-Ams in the San Francisco Bay Area. FAHRA
“I went there with full faith and goodness in my heart, nice, courteous, professional, thinking that the group that promoted democracy and freedom of speech should accommodate the other side of the spectrum. However, my experience there was that I was given only like five seconds and restrained. That is not democracy and freedom of speech that they promoted years and years ago. Who is authoritarian now?”
Forum organizer and crowd moderator Ago Pedalizo disagreed.
“Wrong, he was one of the first people to ask a question. I also provided enough chances for other DDS members to ask questions. He was given a chance one time to ask like everyone else. He even had an additional 30-second talk with Trillanes after the program. I have to be fair to all attendees. Looking back, it looks like around 60 percent of the questions were thrown by DDS members. We followed ‘rule of law’ and that makes them uncomfortable,” Pedalizo responded.
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