Destroy Or Be Destroyed: Philippine senator battles President Rodrigo Duterte

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Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes had President Rodrigo Duterte's son, Paolo, brought before a Senate inquiry to face allegations he was involved in drug trafficking

After launching his political
career from a jail cell, Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes believes
it could end in a grave thanks to a relentless campaign against his
“hitman” president.
But the former Navy
officer with a history of coup attempts appears to thrive on the
pressures that have come with regularly accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of being a corrupt mass murderer.
“This man is a sociopath and he has the mindset of a hitman,”
Trillanes, 46, told AFP in an interview on Wednesday from his senate
office, offering a typically incendiary assessment of his rival.

Duterte
won last year’s presidential elections on a brutal law-and-order
platform in which he promised an unprecedented campaign to eradicate
illegal drugs in society by killing up to 100,000 traffickers and
addicts.

Duterte won last year's presidential elections on a brutal law-and-order platform in which he promised an unprecedented campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in society by killing up to 100,000 traffickers and addicts

Duterte
won last year’s presidential elections on a brutal law-and-order
platform in which he promised an unprecedented campaign to eradicate
illegal drugs in society by killing up to 100,000 traffickers and
addicts
(AFP)

He
vowed so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish would
grow fat from feeding on them, and said he would pardon police if they
were found guilty of rights abuses while enacting his drug war.
Since
Duterte assumed office in the middle of last year, police have reported
killing more than 3,800 people while thousands of others have been
murdered in unexplained circumstances.
Many
Filipinos looking for quick solutions to crime continue to support
Duterte, according to polls, and he enjoys majority backing in both
houses of Congress.

Dictatorship fears

However
a climate of fear has also emerged, with critics warning the president
is determined to silence dissenters and drag the Philippines back into a
dictatorship three decades after a “People Power” revolution ousted
Ferdinand Marcos.
Duterte has launched
tirades against the Supreme Court chief justice, the Commission on Human
Rights, the Catholic Church and critical media outlets. He and his
allies have then started campaigns to curb their powers or discredit
them.
Senator Leila de Lima, who had been
one of the most vocal critics alongside Trillanes, was in February
jailed on drug trafficking charges she says were fabricated. Rights
groups describe her as a political prisoner.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has launched tirades against the Supreme Court chief justice, the Commission of Human Rights, the Catholic Church and critical media outlets

Philippine
President Rodrigo Duterte has launched tirades against the Supreme
Court chief justice, the Commission of Human Rights, the Catholic Church
and critical media outlets
(AFP)

On the weekend Duterte made Trillanes his new top target.
“I will destroy him or he will destroy me,” Duterte told reporters.
This
came after Trillanes had Duterte’s son, Paolo, brought before a Senate
inquiry last week to face allegations he was involved in drug
trafficking.
Trillanes accused the
younger Duterte of being a member of a Chinese triad that imported huge
amounts of methamphetamines into the Philippines, and challenged him to
show a tattoo on his back that allegedly proved he was a member of the
gang.
Paolo Duterte acknowledged he did have a tattoo on his back, but refused to show it and rejected all accusations against him.
Since
Duterte’s “destroy” remark, his officials and social media supporters
have accused Trillanes of hiding ill-gotten wealth in secret bank
accounts.

Duterte's son, Paolo, was brought before a Senate inquiry last week to face allegations he was involved in drug trafficking

Duterte’s son, Paolo, was brought before a Senate inquiry last week to face allegations he was involved in drug trafficking
(AFP)

Trillanes
denied those accusations, telling AFP they were an expected part of
Duterte’s counter-offensive, and that worse could come.
“Duterte
actually ordered a hit on me. He wants me killed. Aside from the fact
he wants cases fabricated so I can be put away (in jail) like Senator De
Lima,” the father-of-two teenagers said.
Even
though he has called for so many killings, Duterte has repeatedly
insisted that he would not act outside the law nor allow state-sponsored
murders.

Crazy brave

Trillanes
showed no signs in the interview of being intimidated by Duterte,
likely drawing on his many years of experience in the Philippines’
bare-knuckled democratic ring.
As a young naval officer, Trillanes helped lead two brief coup attempts against then-president Gloria Arroyo in 2003 and 2007.
Trillanes
and his military allies accused Arroyo of corruption, state-sponsored
terrorism and subverting democracy on multiple fronts.
He
was jailed for seven years but, in what was widely seen as an
anti-Arroyo vote, became the first person to be elected a senator while
in jail.
Duterte’s predecessor, an Arroyo critic, pardoned Trillanes and other coup plotters in 2010.
This
allowed Trillanes to pursue his senate career at full throttle — and
he became well-known for digging up dirt on a range of powerful
politicians.
To his supporters, Trillanes became a crazy brave anti-graft crusader.
His critics saw him as a publicity hound chiefly concerned with advancing his political career.
Trillanes
rejected those accusations, insisting he would walk away from politics
when his Senate term ended in 2019 to initially pursue a masters degree
in international relations.
“In this political fight with Duterte, there is no forthcoming election for me,” Trillanes said as he defended his motives.
“And most importantly my life is at stake here. So I believe no political ambition could ever match up to that.”

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