Backchannel Politics

Fast forward. When Senator Sonny Trillanes stood on the floor in 19 September 2012 to deliver his “Kung gusto ko isasagasa ko. Kung ayaw ko, uupuan ko” privilege speech, whispers were abound about a so-called backroom operator. The youngest Senator felt alluded to by the whispers, and that is where the problem started. Trillanes and his group were the backroom operators who elbowed others. And I am still looking for the answer why.

Our problem with Beijing would not have escalated had the Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed Domingo Lee as our ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

Lee’s leading critic in the CA argued that Lee does not know anything about diplomacy or about track negotiations. He was also insulted for failing Foreign Policy 101.  But what CA members missed in that nomination was the fact that in China, it is not who is in the position that matters; it is whom you know.  It is not who is powerful. Rather it is who has the ears of the leadership. Domingo Lee may not have known the nuances of diplomacy and negotiations, but he speaks the language, and he is a very close family friend of the President – two traits Chinese leaders value most.

To break the impasse, the President appointed a career diplomat, Sonia Brady, as our top person in Beijing, then appointed Lee and Cesar Zalamea as special envoys with identical six-month terms. Lee was envoy for tourism, culture, and education, while Zalamea was for investments. Lee’s added task was the promotion of 2012-2013 as the year of friendly exchanges between Manila and Beijing. That was the triad approach so that the Aquino Administration can still use Lee’s edge in building its relationship with China. That was like April to May, and a lot of elbowing took place at the backroom because of a new player.

Fast forward. When Senator Sonny Trillanes stood on the floor in 19 September 2012 to deliver his “Kung gusto ko isasagasa ko. Kung ayaw ko, uupuan ko” privilege speech, whispers were abound about a so-called backroom operator. The youngest Senator felt alluded to by the whispers, and that is where the problem started. Trillanes and his group were the backroom operators who elbowed others.  And I am still looking for the answer why.

When I heard about Trillanes’ group in whispers, I felt sad for Domingo Lee because what made Trillanes a better option? Only Madam Fu Ying knows.

Why did the Chinese Embassy in Manila not trust our Secretary of Foreign Relations? Simple, he is viewed as being pro-US, and I will leave it at that.

Trillanes did not study the handwriting on the wall. He practically walked into the trap when he stood up to deliver a privilege speech. His speech merely referred to the Nuevo Camarines bill but the traps have all been set up to expose him and his role. Why did JPE used that card? Why expose Trillanes? What was the deal that made all ships return to their docks?

Back channel politics is nothing new. It is a tactic in negotiations where certain people are asked by a principal to act for and on his behalf but with deniability. Why? Because these are often times shortcuts to the formal process. There is nothing wrong in doing backroom negotiations, whether in government or in business, whether authorized or not.  What is wrong is when the agent reveals his or her role, and arrogates to him- or herself the success of the backroom talks. By doing so, the agent waives the mantle of secrecy. I should add though that secrecy does not automatically mean clandestine. After all, Trillanes is an elected Senator. But when he compared himself to U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt as a way of justifying his involvement, the comparison fails miserably.

Laxalt was appointed and named by the late US President Ronald Reagan to deal directly with then President Marcos.  At that time, Laxalt was a senior Senator from Nevada (1947-1987). Laxalt served as election campaign chairman of Reagan in 1976, 1980, and 1984.

Since Trillanes chose to thump his chest, he may as well reveal all the sordid details because national security is being played just like the latest videos in PS3.

Indeed, MVP is right, in saying “Ang gulo-gulo nyo.”

 

Privilege Speech of Senator Trillanes

 

 

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About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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