MANILA - Malacañang stood by its version that Senator Antonio Trillanes volunteered to help address the country’s territorial row with China over Scarborough Shoal.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda that this was President Aquino’s recollection.
Trillanes reportedly claimed that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. had asked him to help as tensions rose in the shoal.
Ochoa has yet to issue a statement.
“What I can say is what the President has informed us that, to the recollection of the President, he was approached by Senator Trillanes. So I have not had the opportunity to speak to Executive Secretary Ochoa yesterday because he was in the House defending the budget of the DILG. But, as far as the recollection of the President is concerned, and what he told us categorically was he recalled that he was approached by Senator Trillanes,” Lacierda said.
Palace hoping Trillanes will shut up
The Palace is hoping that Trillanes would stop speaking publicly about the issue. Lacierda said Aquino had made the request to Trillanes through text.
“I suppose the point of view of the President is: Does it help solve the issue if a party keeps on talking? And that’s the reason why the President has asked both parties to refrain from making any statements,” Lacierda said.
“We would certainly hope that the senator would refrain from making further statements.”
“‘Yun nga po ang ating hiling. Ang pagsasalita po ba ay makakatulong sa isyu? Kaya nga po ‘yun ang naging direksyon na binigay ni Pangulong Aquino kay Secretary Del Rosario at si Secretary Del Rosario po ay hindi po nagsasalita. Si Senator Trillanes ay ni-request din po ni Pangulong Aquino na huwag na munang magbigay ng mga statement. Dahil siya po ay isang senador, naniniwala po siyang karapatan po niya ‘yon. Ang sa amin po naman ay para lang ayusin po ‘yung isyung ito. Now, hindi po namin maiaalis sa kanya kung ayaw po niyang makinig kay Presidente dahil siya po ay isang senador. Pero, in the bigger picture, ano ba talaga ang mas makakabuti sa atin? ‘Di ba dapat pag-usapan muna ng taong concerned? ‘Yun po ang ating pakay po ng ating Pangulo,” Lacierda said.
The President himself has not spoken publicly about the issue since Trillanes was unmasked as his backdoor negotiator with China.
“The reason why the President is silent is because, rather than engage media first, he would like to speak to both Secretary [Albert] del Rosario and Senator Trillanes. I think that’s the most decent thing to do na kausapin muna ‘yung mga taong concerned bago siya magsasalita sa media. And I think that’s a modicum of decency on our part… Imbes na nagbabangayan sa media, pag-usapan nang maayos. Kaya sinabi ni Pangulong Aquino huwag na munang magsalita sa media at mag-uusap tayo at ‘yun po ang planong gawin po ni Pangulong Aquino,” Lacierda said.
Trillanes had no blanket authority
Lacierda said he has no details on how many times Trillanes had traveled to Beijing or whether it was the Palace that paid for his trips.
Lacierda has no comment on why the President had trusted Trillanes.
Lacierda stressed that Trillanes had no blanket authority and was only dealing about issues connected to Scarborough Shoal.
“No,” Lacierda said when asked if Trillanes was given a blanket authority.
“The reason why he approached the President was that… there was the issue on the Scarborough Shoal,” Lacierda added.
Even if Trillanes was in the picture, Lacierda said, the country’s policy on the territorial dispute did not change.
“The backchanneling was specific on the issue of the Scarborough. We have not veered away from our official position of deescalating tensions, number one. Number two, we have not veered away from our position that our resources within our exclusive economic zone belong to the Philippines. We have sovereign rights over them. That has not changed,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda did not specify which “minor successes” the President was referring to when he spoke of what Trillanes has achieved since becoming a backdoor negotiator.
“Big picture is the Philippine-China relations are better now than what it was during the height of the tension in Scarborough Shoal. So we have seen better relations with China, warmer relations with China now,” Lacierda said.
Palace not unseating Enrile, Brady notes
The Palace reiterated that it was not behind the alleged attempt to unseat Enrile from his post as Senate President. Lacierda said the Palace enjoys good relations with Enrile.
“What we have is a good working relationship with the Senate President. So, when we were asked about that, we were even surprised. But, again, for now we have no reason to question the ability of Senate President. He has been very, very cooperative with the most of the administration measures,” Lacierda said.
The Palace cannot confirm the contents of the supposed notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady from her conversation with Trillanes, only to say that revelations on Trillanes’ supposed talking points did not reflect the policy of the government towards China.
“This is a conversation allegedly that took place between Sonia Brady and Senator Trillanes… We cannot comment on the contents of that particular discussion,” Lacierda said.
“It does not seem to be the position taken by the Philippine government. It is not the position taken by the President. It is not the position taken by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Our official position is very clear and we have made this position crystal clear actually to the Chinese government through the Chinese Embassy.”