PRESIDENT Duterte’s offensive against Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, nearly two weeks after it started, has made the Yellows so afraid.
To call a spade a spade, the Trillanes episode is Duterte’s political blitz against the Yellows, three-and-half years before elections.
It is a major move for Duterte to decimate the opposition this early, and to ensure that the next president would be his anointed.
Soon, Trillanes will be as much a footnote as alleged drug-lord coddler Leila de Lima and the former president’s abomination at the chief justice post, Ma. Lourdes Sereno. The opposition is left with no deadly political hitman. Nor even in Trillanes’ mind, a “winnable” presidential candidate in the 2022 elections: based on my interview with him in 2015, he believed that the presidency was his next post after his senatorial stint.
Trillanes has been the Yellow’s mad dog who has been barking incessantly so loudly and wildly against Duterte, that media’s microphones could not but pick up his baying. Trillanes has been the Yellows’ political rabid-mad cur, an askal, from the street; Senators Risa Hontiveros, Bam Aquino, Kiko Pangilinan are the pusillanimous chihuahuas of the Philippine elite. At 73, don’t expect the obese Sen. Franklin Drilon to fit into the armor of a dashing Yellow knight who would duel with Duterte.
Former President Aquino is fast becoming totally bald probably because of his fear of being jailed himself for graft or even just criminal negligence. He is so much discredited, and with the blood of the SAF 44 and Dengvaxia victims on his hands, he doesn’t even dare appear at a mall. His would-be ex-successor, Mar Roxas posted a video on his Facebook wall saying he was off to a long soul-searching kind of journey throughout the archipelago.
The Yellows didn’t see it coming. They were busy convincing themselves, and panicking to get some proof (“he went to Israel for treatment”) that Duterte was dying from some illness. They even thought that the move against Trillanes was such a big blunder that one of their columnists Melito Salazar and Aquino’s disgraced tourism undersecretary Vicente Romano were in a duet singing “The End is Near.”
A day after Duterte launched his offensive through Proclamation 572, a Philippine Star columnist—who had early this year called the outrage against Dengvaxia as mass hysteria—even likened Duterte to Forest Gump and called his move a “half-wit legal maneuver.” Even the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s well-known columnist, a supporter of Duterte, headlined his piece “Digong is making a martyr out of Trillanes.” A non-lawyer, he claimed that Duterte “got flawed counsel from his legal advisers” who should be fired.
Trillanes himself claimed that for Duterte to revoke his amnesty is so alarmingly stupid, that the President wasn’t really a lawyer, but just got his father, a onetime governor, to put him in the roster of attorneys. Duterte of course pointed out that his father died 20 years before he became a lawyer.
Nearly two weeks after Duterte’s move against him though, nobody’s calling the President stupid anymore.
Trillanes has quickly metamorphosed from a would-be martyr of the opposition to a coward hiding under the Senate’s skirts, as it were, trembling at the thought of spending time in some yucky police jail, to a clown, everyday expecting hordes of Filipinos to rally to his banner.
Einstein reportedly defined insanity as “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Going by that definition, Trillanes is mad. By occupying with his gang Oakwood in 2003 and then the Peninsula hotels in 2007, he thought that he was a Juan Ponce Enrile or a Fidel Ramos, whom Filipinos rallied around against Marcos in 1986, to trigger a People Power uprising to topple then President Arroyo. They didn’t, with Trillanes later lamely blaming then Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, whom he claimed had promised to bring the first warm bodies to the hotels to support the putschists. (Binay could mobilize People Power?)
He has done the same thing and expected a different result. He thought he would trigger People Power by holing up in the Senate. But he could gather at most 50 people, half of whom were obviously poor housewives just wanting to make a buck. To take the role of Cardinal Sin in EDSA I, he could only get that lunatic, publicity-seeking priest Roberto Reyes. Worse, the cleric Noel Gatchalian roused Catholics’ ire when he said in his sermon at a mass for Trillanes that he prayed to God to make Duterte ill, and then later thanked Trillanes in his Facebook post for gifting him a P100,000 Apple laptop.
Even Yellow diehards praying every day for a Power Power against Duterte and who are so fond of joining protest rallies – the likes of Dinky Soliman, Teresita Deles, Jim Paredes and Mae Paner – didn’t rally to Trillanes’ banners.
Let’s be realistic. Nobody, not even his anti-Duterte comrades, likes Trillanes. He was solely Aquino’s personal minion, and I was told he was flatly rejected when he sent feelers that he wanted to be a Liberal Party vice president. Trillanes is a person that should have stayed in the military, where one doesn’t need to be liked by anybody, but only required to be obeyed because of rank.
People see Trillanes not just as arrogant but a megalomaniac. Winning twice as senator made his head swell. He mistakenly believes that the masses adore him, ignoring the fact that it was the anti-Arroyo hysteria – and I suspect massive cheating – that gave him those election victories. In his six years as senator, he has never been identified with any cause to uplift the masses out of their misery. People remember him only as somebody going against and bullying somebody—even the respected octogenarian Juan Ponce Enrile—under the pretext of conducting a Senate investigation in aid of legislation.
The Yellows had no alternative but to make him the de facto Yellow leader because of his wild, loud barking. Now that leader may be thrown in jail, probably to share the same jail block as De Lima.
Whether he planned it or not, Duterte brilliantly played Trillanes, making him squirm for days in his Senate office, blabbering nonsense at press conferences, his insignificant number of supporters dwindling by the day. He has demonstrated that he is not at all a martyr of democracy but a troublemaker quaking in his boots after someone he had been cursing at constantly hit back at him.
Whether he planned it or not, or it was simply coincidental, Duterte‘s timing was perfect in putting away Trillanes, as he did De Lima and Sereno.
Duterte will be endeared to the public for his administration’s expert handling of preparations for and rescue efforts in connection with the devastation wrought by Typhoon Ompong. In the next few weeks, expect the front pages of newspapers and top stories of TV news to bury the Trillanes caper and to instead report how Duterte and his top officials are commiserating with the typhoon’s victims. A month or so later, this will show up in his popularity ratings – which politicians use to determine their support for a president – going up. Watch stories on Trillanes in the newspapers move from page 1 to the inside pages, as editors—and especially we Filipinos—get tired of this self-important Aquino lackey.
Inflation in the next month or two—as it has always been in our recent history, after a period when the opposition claims it is a sign of impending doom of an incumbent—will be going down, removing doubts over Duterte’s capability to lead the nation. And lastly, what Filipinos call the “ber” months are upon us, after the terrible monsoon rains and typhoons, and people look forward to continuous merrymaking in Christmas parties. People just don’t like to be bothered on these months.
The Yellows are just starting to realize what’s happened this month, and their blood have run cold.
Watch Senator Grace Poe, though. She knows the Yellows are defeated, and she’s starting to position herself to be not necessarily an anti-Duterte presidential candidate, but a viable alternative to whomever Duterte chooses as his anointed in the next presidential elections. The equivalent of Binay in 2022.