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Six years after, Trillanes refutes Brady notes on his China backdoor talks

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By Xave Gregorio

Nearly six years after Senator Juan Ponce Enrile read on the Senate floor notes he attributed to Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has finally refuted parts of it, saying he was taken out of context.

In a TV interview Thursday (August 9), Trillanes denied saying “Sa Pilipinas walang may gusto sa atin ‘yung Panatag, ‘yung Scarborough Shoal,” to mean that no one in the country cares about its territorial claim over the sea feature within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

“The context was I was telling Ambassador Brady that there was a need to resolve this matter, because the longer that it lingers kawawa ‘yung mga OFWs natin, ‘yung mga FIlipinos natin in China because they were already being harassed,” Trillanes said. “Whereas in the Philippines, we’re just letting the Chinese or any Chinese-looking person just… we’re letting them be.”

The opposition senator also denied having said this in the presence of Chinese officials and that the notes read by Enrile were taken by Brady when he briefed her about his meetings around three months after her appointment.

However, he also cast doubt on the notes read by the former senator, dismissing these as merely the “Enrile notes.”

“It was just the Enrile notes. He was just reading a fantasy or novel or what,” Trillanes said.

He said he wanted Enrile to release the notes in full to reveal the “full context” of what the they say.

”But he didn’t do that because precisely he’s just trying to get back at me for opposing his move to split up Camarines Sur,” Trillanes said.

Enrile was prompted to read the notes after a heated exchange with Trillanes over the proposed splitting up of the province of Camarines Sur.

The issue of Trillanes’ involvement in backchannel negotiations with China at the height of a row with the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 went back into the spotlight after the senator was dragged into a word war between former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano over the government’s transparency in dealing with the regional power.

Aquino urged the Duterte administration to be more transparent in its talks with Beijing – a suggestion that was met with retaliation from Cayetano, who brought up Trillanes’ backdoor talks.

The former President has insisted that transparency was a “hallmark” of his administration, pointing to Enrile’s reading of Brady’s supposed notes on Trillanes’ negotiations as a proof that they were transparent.

Trillanes said he could ask Aquino to declassify his dealings with China, but warned that releasing this to the public “may affect future dealings.”

“The nature of backchannel negotiations, it’s highly classified. It’s deemed most important element here is the element of trust,” he said.

But he said that if Duterte and his officials really want to find out what his deals were about, they can simply ask their Chinese contacts about him.

“They can ask the Chinese contacts they have kung mayroon bang binigay sa aming mga proyekto or if the Chinese gave me money for whatever. Madali nilang malaman ‘yun,” Trillanes said.

Duterte has claimed that Trillanes had amassed hidden wealth from the backdoor negotiations with Beijing.

Unlike the previous administration, the Duterte administration has cozied up to China, claiming this has improved situations in the West Philippine Sea.

China, however, continues to ramp up its militarization of the region and some of its coast guards were caught on video taking Filipino fishermen’s catch in exchange of instant noodles, cigarettes and bottled water.