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The Trillanes enigma

Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes

Senator Antonio “Please-Someone-Take-Me-Seriously-For-Once” Trillanes IV (photo) – star of an interminable series of Senate soaps; the wannabe action hero of Coup Farce and Coup Farce I – is once again gracing the headlines and disgracing the upper chamber of the Philippine legislature.

Our question for this weekend’s Your Forum is this: “Does Trillanes have any credible mandate from the Filipino people to use the Senate chamber as his own personal soap box?” In short, who exactly – other than himself and a handful of isolated maverick politicos; all opposed to President Rodrigo Duterte – does he speak for?

He pops up with the regularity of a comic court jester in a Shakespearian play, to confuse and bemuse; not central to the main plot, a sideshow of distraction. O Antonio, Antonio, who for art thou Antonio?

His senatorial hard-core cronies include remnants of the diminished Liberal Party (LP) of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino – among them, Minority Floor Leader, Franklin Drilon; Senate pro-tempore president, Ralph Recto; Aquino cabinet member, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan; Noynoy’s cousin, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, and arrested drugs suspect and former Aquino justice secretary, Leila De Lima – plus socialist-dogmatist, egotist-feminist, Leftist-elitist-activist-ideologist, pro-Aquinoist, LP-accompanyist, political-antagonist, anti-capitalist, communist-apologist, anti-Duterteist, Risa Hontiveros.

Of this pack, Trillanes and De Lima have been the most vocal critics of Duterte, performing a Bonnie and Clyde double act on the floor of the senate up until the former justice secretary was hauled off by the police back in February. Recently, Hontiveros has started to display her own singular talent for bizarre acts of headline grabbing – such as her revelations last week that two minors, witnesses to the police killing of a 17-year-old high school student, were in her protective care.

But back to the events that led us to ask our question. On Thursday, like a disruptive hormonal adolescent in a classroom he wished to impress, the 46-year old head boy of the Magdalo Party List – a minor quasi-official political party – released his latest unscripted drama in his long-running Senate Farce series. It was the usual performance of bad-tempered, confrontational politics which once more put him centre stage as he snatched the headlines and sucked the oxygen out of social media.

At issue was Trillanes’s repugnance to the way Senator Richard Gordon was chairing the Blue Ribbon Committee investigations into how, in May, PHP6.4 billion worth of crystal meth was waved through the express lane at the Manila International Container Port by Bureau of Customs’ officials, ending up in a Valenzuela City warehouse.

As with all things Trillanes, attacking Duterte in any form he can is the sole purpose of his Senate business. And here again it was no different. He wanted Duterte’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor, Paolo Duterte, and his son-in-law, Manases Carpio, hauled before the committee. Gordon rejected the motion, the curtain went up and the action kicked off.

Trillanes chose Spanish to denigrate the hearing, describing it as a “comité de absuelto” (committee of aquittal); Gordon went bi-lingual, English and Tagalog. and reminded Trillanes that the Senate is not a “cockpit of chismis” (rumours). Further barbs were traded ending with Gordon threatening to file an ethics complaint against Trillanes for his behaviour and his offensive language. [Exerunt].

None of that of course had any material bearing on the work of the committee – and certainly doesn’t advance the country’s interests in any way – but then regular viewers of Senate Farce wouldn’t expect it to. Trillanes’s is obsessed with his work of bringing down this government – its leader in particular. But who, apart from the aforementioned, does he represent? Across the nation, where is his constituency?

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