MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has welcomed the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss the treason and espionage charges that supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte had filed against him and former President Benigno Aquino III.
“The decision proves our point from the very start that the case was merely filed to harass and tarnish my reputation,” said Trillanes in a statement issued Sunday, June 18.
“This is what happens when your political opponents start to believe their own propaganda. But no matter how they twist the facts, in the end, the truth will always come out,” the senator added.
It was reported on Sunday that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales did not find probable cause for the charges that Duterte’s supporters filed before the national polls took place in 2016. This was also the time when Trillanes was accusing the then presidential frontrunner of allegedly having P211 million his bank accounts that he failed to declare in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
In their May 6, 2016 complaint, the accusers claimed that Trillanes and Aquino had allegedly conspired in emboldening China to take an aggressive stance in its maritime row with the Philippines and take over areas in the West Philippine Sea such as Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands.
Through Trillanes’ back-channel talks with Chinese officials, which was authorized by Aquino, the Philippines helped advance China’s interest in the West Philippine Sea, according to Gen. Roberto T. Lastimoso, Dr. Enrico Sampang, Judge Moslemen T. Macarambon, former Congressman Ronald Adamat and Dr. Dioscoro Esteban, Jr.
“Senator Trillanes met with the Chinese (representatives) 16 times, and he requested that the meeting [be] secret. In those meetings, Trillanes made mention that the Philippines cannot enforce coastal protection. And that made the Chinese take an aggressive [stance] and take over our areas,” the complainants said, adding that what the senator did, which had Aquino’s blessings, was a violation of Articles 114 (Treason) and 117 (Espionage) of the Revised Penal Code.
In September 2012, Trillanes said Aquino had sent him to China to hold back-channel talks with China to resolve the Philippines’ territorial dispute with its Asian neighbor, which had been simmering since April of the same year. The senator said Beijing had acknowledged his role as an envoy in the “confidential mission.”
In her ruling, Carpio-Morales noted that, “Backchannel negotiations with China cannot be construed as giving aid to enemy.”
“Treason is a war crime. It is not an all-time offense…While there is peace, there are no traitors. There must be actual hostilities…” the Ombudsman said.
She explained that “as a result of the intense stand-off in April and May 2012 between Chinese and Philippines vessels in the Scarborough Shoal, President Aquino’s action of exploring means of peacefully settling the on-going issue with China was for the interest of the Philippines.”
“It is an inherent presidential power to pursue negotiations with other States. On the other hand, Sen. Trillanes merely acted under Pres. Aquino’s instruction to negotiate with Chinese representatives in order to ease the escalating tension between the two States,” said Carpio-Morales.
The Ombudsman further said that the “aggressive posturing of China was made known as earlv as Mav 23, 2011 when it was reported that…military garrisons and outposts are located in six reefs that are part of the Kalayaan Island Group and that the back channel negotiation between Sen. Trillanes and Chinese representatives commenced only in May 2012.”
“The alleged hostilities and aggression in the West Philippine Sea could not, therefore, be attributed to the backchannel discussions between Sen. Trillanes and the Chinese representatives,” she said in her ruling.