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MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday said he received information that the clandestine trip of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to China, just before he volunteered to be a back-channel negotiator for the Philippine government is connected to the $70-billion loan promised by Beijing to the Philippines.
And, lending mystery to his mission, the Senate has no record that Trillanes sought permission for any of his six trips to China, Enrile said. Trillanes used an ordinary passport and refused to have this stamped by immigration.
“I have received information that this has something connected with the $70-billion loan that was supposed to have been promised by the Chinese government to the President to implement China’s projects,” Enrile said in a TV interview.
However, Enrile said he had not verified the information, but insisted that a very reliable source gave it to him after his showdown with Trillanes on the floor in the Senate plenary last Wednesday.
“I have not verified this, but I got this information,” Enrile said.
“I was wondering, how could this man . . . I’ve been in the government for a long, long time. I think you can’t go to China and just barge into the Foreign Affairs Ministry of China, and make a visit to them, none, nobody,” he further explained.
Enrile revealed that some Chinese businessmen in the country, who had contacts in China, arranged Trillanes’s trips to China, for which he neither sought nor got permission from the Senate President, and used a ordinary passport.
“His contacts? I was told [they’re] Chinese businessmen in the country, who had contacts in China,” Enrile said.
Enrile said that when he learned of Trillanes’s trip to China, he immediately checked Senate records to see if he has permission to travel, since under the law, he should have asked for permission, for record purposes.
“Later on I found out, and I checked the records of the Senate and . . . there is no record of his trips to China. And I called him for the record of all his travels,” Enrile said.
He said every senator leaving the country, whether government-funded or privately-funded, should have the permission of the Senate President.
“(I need to give a travel permit) In fact, I have to write the DFA when I would give him a travel permit. Also, I verified this--- that Senator Trillanes, in his trips to China, refused to have his passport stamped. So, there is no record of it in the immigration office,” he said.
“Why the clandestine activity? That is the question that entered my mind. As a Filipino, I will expose this, it is my duty,” Enrile said.
“The immigration office should be able to verify this, that is the information that I received,” he added.
President not at fault
Enrile also said no one can fault the President for asking Trillanes to do back-channelling in the maritime row with China that started in April, because the chief executive needs all the help and effort of all government officials to defuse the brewing tension over the Scarborough Shoal being claimed by China.
“You cannot fault the President for trying to find a solution to a national problem, such as what we're having with China,” Enrile said.
But, Enrile argued, the person entrusted by the President with any mission, like Trillanes, must exercise first discretion.
“When you go to a country to deal with a foreign power, you must notify the embassy. That's the purpose of the embassy. In that country, he should have notified the embassy to alert them that he’s there for a mission and he should have brought at least a responsible official of the embassy to be witness to what he is going to say and what is going to be said to him to take notes. And so that the people he would contact have records in writing; this is business. And that is the dangerous part of this whole thing,” he explained.
Brady notes not invented nor classified
Enrile stressed that, contrary to Trillanes’s assertion on Thursday, he did not invent the notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady which contained the conversation between her and Trillanes.
Enrile read the Brady Notes after Trillanes walked out of the session hall last Wednesday when Enrile started grilling him about his back-channel work and what he had been saying about DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, as contained in the Brady Notes.
Enrile said the Brady Notes is not classified, but there are two separate envelops with information which he did not want to expose.
“Definitely this Brady’s report, I did not invent this. I could not possibly [do it]; no mind, no matter how good, can invent the details here,” he said.
“And by the way, this is not a state secret. This has no national security [implications], contrary to the statement of some people who are ignorant of the term national security,” added Enrile, who served in the defense and military sector in various capacities for 17 years.
Enrile said that Brady, being a seasoned diplomat, and as a duty, takes down notes to record everything happening in her ambassadorial post because she is the alter ego of the President, and the official representative of the country in Beijing.
“Brady is a trained diplomat, it's her duty to make a report. If you are a government official, holding an ambassadorial position, an alter ego of the president, you are the president in that country. You represent the state and the president. If you are a member of the Cabinet, any conversation that you have with a relation to national interests, especially with the likes of Brady, you have to note,” he further explained.
“Yes, I am sure the notes came from Brady. I can swear on it,” he said, adding that there is “another document . . . in Tagalog, and this contains damaging statements not about the Scarborough issue. The issue is about the people, the official people of the government handling it,” Enrile concluded.