MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV confirmed meeting with U.S. officials but denied this included an attempt to stop a visit to the Philippines by President Donald Trump.
“I would like to confirm the information that I met with senior US government officials to include Senator Marco Rubio,” Trillanes, an outspoken critics of President Rodrigo Duterte, said in a brief statement sent from overseas.
Following a tweet by Rubio about meeting with Trillanes to discuss the “U.S.-Philippine alliance, combating corruption and protecting human rights amid their narcotics crisis,” rumors immediately swirled about the opposition lawmaker’s intentions, among these a purported bid to stop a Trump visit.
Rubio, a Republican, and Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin filed in May the proposed “Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017,” seeking to restrict exports of certain arms and equipment to the Philippine National Police because of the killings that have marked the Duterte government’s war on drugs.
Malacañang itself weighed in on Trillanes’ visit, with Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, saying: “We do hope the correct information has been given and not biased information designed to adversely affect US-Philippines relations.”
Trillanes confirmed the topics Rubio said they had discussed but said: “Unlike the officials of the Duterte Administration, I presented only factual information.”
“Besides, you cannot fool the US government; they know what’s happening in our country,” he said.
As to trying to stop Trump from visiting the country, Trillanes said such trips “are carefully planned and cannot be stopped on the mere say so of a Philippine senator.”
And while giving assurances that “I pushed for the interests of our country,” Trillanes said: “But let me emphasize that the interests of our country are not necessarily the same as the interests of Mr. Duterte.”