What explains Duterte’s greatest pique?
What truly got President Duterte to bellyache against Sen. Antonio Trillanes?
Only a flashback to what had transpired since the onset of the Duterte presidency can give us a detached appreciation of a possible cause and effect.
Mr. Duterte had marketed himself basically by way of two images: that he was incorrupt, and that he lived a simple life despite his elite background. Both were seen as necessary ingredients to his swashbuckling image as a no-nonsense crime buster.
Only two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Trillanes brought to the fore documents that were supposedly sourced from the Anti-Money Laundering Council. These allegedly laid bare information about bank transactions, running up to the billions over a period of time, involving Mr. Duterte and his children. Bank accounts were provided. Ordinary citizens then attempted to test the accounts’ veracity by depositing token amounts. The bank accepted the deposits.
Did Trillanes stand on a solid exposé? The answer can only be gleaned from how Mr. Duterte responded. He countered that Trillanes had hidden bank accounts in Singapore. The bank in Singapore certified, however, that no such thing exists. There being none, Mr. Duterte’s ruse was instead deemed a red herring, a diversion, a decoy. He had failed to discredit Trillanes.
Then it becomes necessary to go back to the celebrated P6.4-billion shabu shipment exposé last year involving the Bureau of Customs. Self-confessed fixer Mark Taguba had implicated members of the Duterte family. And how did the Duterte camp react?
First, Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr. of the Davao City Council, said by Taguba to be his go-between for Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, was reported either missing or absent from the council sessions just days after his name was floated.
Then came the resignation from office of Paolo Duterte.
There is a third reaction that must not be relegated to the dustbin. The “Tita Nanie” that Taguba had said he had communicated with and who was alleged to have been the younger Duterte’s fixer in the BOC had neither been found nor brought forward to this day.
Trillanes claims she had been “sanitized” in time by the Duterte camp, when her real identity was exposed at the Senate hearings. The woman is said to be Nanie Cabato Coronacion. Whether she is now 6 feet below the ground or is kept in a safe house is beyond us at the moment. The fact remains that she has not come out to admit or deny guilt. That alone is a significant factor in this issue.
And then we must not forget the most appalling end result of this multibillion-peso shabu scandal: To this day, it is the poor warehouse caretaker who languishes in jail.
In the interim between that and today, Trillanes played his check-and-balance role to the hilt by grilling the Tulfo siblings on the fiasco at the Department of Tourism. No other senator gave the Tulfos, known friends of the President, a hard time in the Senate investigations. Mr. Duterte had reportedly given instructions to go easy on the Tulfos, which only dented his image as a crime buster of friend or foe.
What we see at present clearly appears to be a pent-up reaction on Mr. Duterte’s part, resulting from all that Trillanes had alleged against him. Notice the word: alleged. That is because Mr. Duterte has denied or dismissed all of Trillanes’ accusations. Foremost among these is the dare for him to simply get any pen and sign the bank waiver to finally and unequivocally refute Trillanes.
As observers of what we all expect to be governance based on the rule of law, we reasonably ask: Why is Mr. Duterte reacting this way toward Trillanes?
The possible answers can only be either of the following: One, Trillanes created fake goods against Mr. Duterte only for political braggadocio; in which case, one can perhaps understand Mr. Duterte’s pique against him. Or, two, Trillanes is hitting the nail on the head in his accusations against the President, in which case either Mr. Duterte is feeling the heat now that his real persona is showing, or he wants to hold on to the money that Trillanes says he has. Or both.
Arrested or not, Trillanes has the upper hand. Mr. Duterte is now an emperor without clothes.
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