Senator Antonio "Sonny" F. Trillanes, IV reacts to a question during an open forum held on Friday, Feb. 9, at the Hana Center at the north side of Chicago, | JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes, IV (second from left) responds to a question fielded from him by journalists during a press conference. | JGL Photo
CHICAGO (JGL) – Visiting Filipino Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes, IV, told a Filipino American community forum on Feb. 9, that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to conduct a preliminary examination of his group’s complaint could force the hand of President Duterte to declare martial law nationwide. The ICC is based in The Hague, The Netherlands.
“Yan ang kailangan nating bantayan, (that’s what we should guard against)” Trillanes said. “Now that the ICC has recognized our communication, Mr. Duterte might be shaking in his boots or in his slippers.”
At a press con held at the Hana Center presided by this reporter and Marlon L. Pecson, and hosted by the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA)-Illinois, Trillanes explained that a preliminary examination must first establish a basis of their claim that Duterte committed crimes against humanity and mass murder.
“If ICC makes a finding that there is a basis to our claim, the next step is to conduct a preliminary investigation, which is similar to filing information in a Philippine criminal court,” Trillanes said. “The ICC could resolve the case in a matter of months.”
Despite a nasty weather that piled up a crippling 10-inch snow, at least 30 people showed up to welcome the senator who was accompanied by former Magdalo Party-List Congressman Francisco Ashley L. Acedillo. Some schoolmates of Trillanes from the Philippine Military Academy living in the Chicago area also came.
According to Trillanes, his group was forced to file a complaint in the ICC when thousands of Filipinos were getting killed under Duterte’s state-sponsored war on drugs and no investigations of the killings were done by Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation.
He also said that Duterte was even impeached because of these killings but his allies who dominate the Congress railroaded the impeachment proceedings and threw away the articles of impeachment. Having failed on this move, they did not have “no other option but to resort to ICC, one of the legal modes to remove a sitting president, aside from impeachment and people power, according to the Philippine Supreme Court.”
“it’s not enough that Duterte will say, ‘I did not kill those thousands’. He should have stopped those killings as [the] father of your nation. You killed your children,” Trillanes said.
He said that despite an investigation conducted by the Senate committee on justice under Sen Leila de Lima, the committee felt the heat and decided that there was no EJK (extrajudicial killings).
“The Rome Statute is very clear. All the elements are satisfied to warrant the filing of the case against Mr. Duterte,” he said. “Many Filipinos were killed without trial and we don’t have a death penalty.”
He claims that his case before the ICC has a better chance of gaining ground than those cases against leaders in Africa facing similar complaints before the ICC. “We are an open democracy. The cases against some of the victims of EJK’s were documented. This case is easy to prove,” he said.
He disputed the accusation that he covered up his own corrupt activities particularly on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to get back at Duterte. “If he (Mr. Duterte) has any dirt against me, do you think, he will withhold it? This guy, Duterte, fabricated supposed offshore bank account under my name, and which he later admitted that he invented it,” he said. “All these are just part of their propaganda”.
When asked by Grace Garcia of Pinoy Newsmagazine if he can collaborate instead of demonizing Duterte, Trillanes said, “I am a member of [the] political opposition. In a democracy, it is my duty to criticize the abuses of the administration. Despite my role, I supported the budget. I did not oppose the budget of Mr. Duterte, so I am not an obstructionist.”
Acedillo, who accompanied Trillanes to his trips to several states, echoed the common criticism by Duterte’s supporters to Trillanes: “What’s common among your adversaries in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Vice President Jojo Binay, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Mr. Duterte?”
“This is a pattern,” Trillanes said. “They are not paragons of public service. They are crooks. What we are doing is not easy, not pleasurable. I truly wish we could have avoided this. That I am not the one doing this.”
In the open forum that ensued, Trillanes responded to questions about:
- China being the source of illegal drugs smuggled into the country
- No Chinese drug lord convicted
- Duterte’s steady popularity despite accusations
- Davao City’s transformation
- His being a “rejected’ running-mate of Duterte
FAHRA-Illinois is a new U.S.-based group of concerned Filipino Americans who decided to band together to promote and protect human rights for all thru civic reflection (usap-usapan or conversation) and people working together (bayanihan), helping one another (damayan) and by being knowledgeable and aware of the events happening here in the U.S. and in the Philippines.
Aside from FAHRA-Illinois, the other co-sponsors of Trillanes’ talk are Circa Pintig Community Theater, the Filipino American Grand Parents Association of Chicago (FAGPAC), and the Pilipino American Unity for Progress, Inc. (Unipro).