The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 4:11 PM) President Benigno Aquino III said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV remains the country's backchannel negotiator with China, but he wants to talk to the lawmaker soon after the latter publicly attacked Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
In a separate development, Vice President Jejomar Binay assailed Trillanes's attack on del Rosario, whom he described as eminently qualified for the job of DFA chief and a hardworking and courageous one.
Aquino made the statement a day after Palace officials signalled a reluctance to fully affirm the controversial acts of the senator, who ran into a full-blown war with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile over his clandestine mission, the foreign trips that were not sanctioned by the Senate, and his refusal to render a single report to the chamber.
"Well, as of now, yes, he is (still a backchannel negotiator) but I will have to talk to him soon. I’m just loaded with so many things these past six weeks now since (the flooding caused by) Habagat. I have to talk to him," Aquino said on Friday.
Aquino reiterated that it was Trillanes who volunteered his services and not the other way around as claimed by the senator.
The President said Trillanes was already in China when he first offered himself to be the country's backchannel negotiator.
Aquino credited Trillanes for minor successes in the de-escalation of tensions in the West Philippine Sea between Manila and Beijing, in particular, the lessening of Chinese ships in Panatag Shoal.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Trillanes neither had blanket authority nor plenipotentiary powers even if the senator's offer was taken up by the Palace.
Lacierda added that Trillanes was not acting as the alter-ego of the President when he went to China six times and had meetings 16 times as backchannel negotiator.
Asked if the Palace regretted having accepted Trillanes' offer to serve as backchannel negotiator, Lacierda said : "hindsight is always a 20-20 vision."
Aquino has already sent a text message to Trillanes to stop making the rounds in the media.
"We would certainly hope that the senator would refrain from making statements," Lacierda said.
Binay defends del Rosario
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, meanwhile defended Foreign Affairs Secretary del Rosario from claims reportedly made by Trilllanes that the country’s top diplomat had committed “treason” and was not doing his job.
“The official (foreign) policy comes from Secretary del Rosario. Then you have someone calling him a traitor. That’s rather unfortunate,” Binay said in an interview during the oath-taking ceremony of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates in Tagbilaran, Bohol Thursday.
“He [del Rosario] is correctly guiding our foreign policy. And he speaks for the President in matters of foreign policy. It saddens me that this has happened,” he added, referring to the alleged remarks made by the senator contained in the notes of Ambassador to China Sonia Brady, which Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile read on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
The Vice President also described Del Rosario as hardworking and a man of action, citing the Foreign Secretary’s role in ensuring the safe return of Filipino workers from Libya and Syria.
“Secretary del Rosario is a hardworking government official. We had trouble in Syria and Libya and he was there. He is really a man of action,” he said.