By Butch Fernandez, September 10 2018; Business Mirror


Image Credit to Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE political opposition has nothing to do with reports of destabilization, a minority senator said at the weekend, as earlier rumors—fanned by calls of mobilization by supporters—of the impending arrest of Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV fizzled out.

In a statement on Sunday, Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan said, “Destabilization is government’s own doing, not the opposition’s.” Pangilinan is current president of the opposition Liberal Party (LP).

The LP leader insisted that “the opposition does not have to do anything,” adding that “on its own, either by its incompetence or corruption, the [Duterte] administration is doing a good job of destabilizing itself.”

The senator added that “all Malacañang has to do is listen to its own allies who, like the opposition, are calling for the resignation of Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority officials for causing the rice crisis. Are they
destabilizers too?”

Pangilinan pointed out that Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno himself said the “current NFA officials should be hanged.”

The LP leader recalled that Representatives Joey S. Salceda and Karlo Alexei B. Nograles called for their resignation, while Sen. Cynthia A. Villar said public anger may necessitate the replacement of DA and NFA officials.

He added that House leader Danilo E. Suarez, likewise, went so far as calling for the firing of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and National Economic and Development Authority for their “inability to manage the economy.”

“If the President doesn’t want to listen to the opposition, that’s fine but his own allies are sounding the alarm bells,” said Pangilinan, adding: “Malacañang should heed the clamor of its own allies and act decisively to solve the rice crisis.”

‘Ridiculous’ accusation

At the same time, the senator asserted that “accusation of [opposition-backed] destabilization is downright false.”

“It is ridiculous,” Pangilinan said, arguing that “dissent is not destabilization.”

He noted that “every time scandals and controversies hound this administration, whether it be corruption issues or issues of incompetent governance, it blames the opposition.”

Sotto explains

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III expressed disappointment at the effort of certain minority senators, apparently including Pangilinan, to fan public agitation at the weekend by inviting supporters to go to the Senate.

This, amid supposed “information” that Trillanes will be arrested even though he is within Senate premises, and in violation of what Sotto said was a firm agreement between the Senate leadership and the military and police to respect the Senate’s authority over a member.

Sotto was asked by reporters, after the rumors broke of the supposed plot to arrest Trillanes, if he can give a 100-percent guarantee that no arrest will happen inside the Senate, and that even if a warrant is issued, the arresting officers will coordinate with the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms and not barge inside the Senate at the weekend.

Sotto said he was certain the authorities will respect their agreement, and chided those who keep pointing to previous cases of senators being arrested. He said he had been at the institution long enough to personally attest that no such arrests within premises has ever been done.

He also explained why he ordered the limiting of visitors of minority senators at the weekend.

“What is their business in the Senate when they know there is no work? Don’t test my patience and leniency on the matter because I will not allow the Senate to be used for any unruly plot,” Sotto told reporters in a text message. “I expect Senator Trillanes to act accordingly to what we agreed on. All senators have the responsibility to protect the institution above all.”

Speaking in a mix of Filipino and English, Sotto said “tensions in the Senate are heated enough as it is, so I hope people won’t needlessly add fuel to the fire. It’s not good if some forces that might seek to exploit the situation will use us. What is being protected here is the Senate as an institution.”

Per their agreement, Trillanes is allowed 20 visitors only at any given time.

“I was expecting them [senators] to help me preserve the integrity and the sanctity of the institution and not abuse the hospitality of the Senate leadership. No need. There is a church nearby. Senate is closed on weekends. Only staff of senators are allowed. We have to turn off air-conditioning at certain times and on weekends because it will bog down if they don’t.

We are just accommodating Senator Trillanes. I hope his supporters will not abuse our patience,” Sotto said, by way of explaining reports that he “disauthorized” the holding of a Mass at the Senate during the weekend.