MANILA, SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 (GMA NEWS) PATRICIA DENISE CHIU, GMA News - President Benigno Aquino III has asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to refrain from making further statements regarding their alleged rift in connection with the territorial dispute with China.

“I suppose the point of view of the President is: Does it help solve the issue if a party keeps on talking,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda at a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.

“That’s the reason why the President has asked both parties to refrain from making any statements,” he added

Trillanes had reportedly belittled Del Rosario’s efforts in resolving the conflict with China during his backroom negotiations with Chinese officials in July — a move that put the neophyte senator in the center of controversy.

In a short statement Wednesday, Del Rosario maintained that the department “executes the foreign policy that is mandated by our President.”

“We must not be distracted by those who want to divide our country and there must be one policy and one team to promote our national interest," he said.

In a heated argument on Wednesday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile called Trillanes a fraud for allegedly undermining the Philippines’ interest in his backchannel talks with Chinese authorities regarding the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Reading from the notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady, Enrile revealed that Trillanes said the Philippines “does not care about the Panatag Shoal.”

Lacierda cited the sensitivity of the country’s territorial dispute with China as reason why Aquino implored the two to refrain from making comments on the matter.

“The reason why the President is silent is because, rather than engage media first, he would like to speak to both Secretary del Rosario and Senator Trillanes,” he said.

“I think that’s the most decent thing to do, na kausapin muna ‘yung mga taong concerned bago siya magsasalita sa media. And I think that’s a modicum of decency on our part,” he added.

On Trillanes’ claim that he has a right to speak as senator of the Republic, Lacierda said: “The position taken by Senator Trillanes is that he is a senator of the Republic. We respect that.”

However, Trillanes should help resolve the issue more privately, Lacierda added. — KBK, GMA News

Palace: Trillanes asked for China job By PATRICIA DENISE CHIU, GMA News September 19, 2012 3:43pm

Contrary to statements made by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that he was sent by President Aquino to lead backchannel negotiations with China, a Palace official said Wednesday that it was the other way around, with Trillanes asking for the job.

“The President was approached by Senator Trillanes [to say that] ‘there’s a way forward to hold these things,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters in a briefing.

“This was during the height of the tensions between China and the Philippines and the President said ‘let’s keep our options open,’” Lacierda added, saying the President agreed to Trillanes’ proposition.

Lacierda, however, declined to elaborate on the exact nature of Trillanes’ role as ‘special envoy.’

Trillanes: I did not volunteer for the mission

But in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, Trillanes denied asking for the assignment. "That's definitely not the case," he said.

He explained that he was in Malacañang sometime in May for a social gathering when Executive Secretry Paquito Ochoa brought up the issue.

"Sometime in May nagkausap po kami ni Executive Secretary Ochoa at lumabas sa conversation namin 'yung situation noon sa Scarborough at nagtanong siya kung baka pwede raw ako tumulong. So sabi ko sige," he said.

"Nung nag-official visit naman ako last year (sa China) we were able to initiate some or make some contacts so sabi ko sige open up lang namin yun pero sabi ko kailangan ko authorization from the President. So in that sense, hindi mo masasabing nag-volunteer or nilapitan, nagkataon na lumabas yun sa conversation namin at that time," he said.

He also clarified that he does not have any disagreements with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

"The President, through the DFA, is still the source of foreign policy in the country. Ako po I was just tasked to help deescalate yung situation sa Scarborough noong Mayo at yung ngayong improved situation natin is a result nung collective effort nung lahat ng involved," he said, adding Aquino has always been calling the shots.

Trillanes said he had communicated with eight different people through three different channels during his mission. "Let's just say they were high enough to make things happen," he said.

Confidential mission

Earlier in a radio interview, Trillanes said he was assigned the backdoor mission by the President himself.

“I got into this mission as an envoy of the President... so confidential mission [ito],” Trillanes told dzBB in a radio interview.

Trillanes, a former Navy officer who faced rebellion and coup d' etat charges during the Arroyo administration, got his temporary freedom in December 2010 during the first months of the Aquino administration.

He had been in jail since the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, but won a Senate seat during the 2007 polls. In January 2011, he applied for amnesty, which was approved the same month.

Enrile surprised Trillanes' role has baffled even Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who said he was surprised upon seeing Trillanes in a Cabinet meeting last July regarding the territorial dispute with China.

"I just learned about it when I was invited in Malacañang during a Cabinet meeting, when he (Trillanes) was making a report for the Cabinet and he was making complaints against the Department of Foreign Affairs," he said.

"I was surprised to see him there," Enrile admitted.

In a privilege speech Wednesday, Trillanes accused Enrile of being a lackey of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He then announced that he is bolting out from the Senate majority bloc.

Trillanes also walked out of the session hall when Enrile began to answer his allegation.

'Minor successes'

Lacierda said Trillanes’ efforts have resulted in “some minor successes,” but declined to elaborate on the details of these gains.

On the fate of Trillanes as backchannel negotiator, Lacierda said, “The President will still talk to him about this.”

At the same press briefing, Lacierda stressed that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President, and remains on top of negotiations with China.

“So, if you’re asking me: Does the Secretary of Foreign Affairs have the trust and confidence of the President? I can say that categorically,” Lacierda said.

At the same time, Lacierda said Del Rosario was informed of Trillanes’ role.

Meanwhile, responding to questions on whether China might view the presence of Trillanes as backdoor negotiator as divisive, and if Trillanes’ coming out in the open diminishes the legitimacy of Del Rosario as negotiator, Lacierda said it was immaterial since at the end of the day, the chief policy maker remains the President.

“The situation there is that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs gets his marching orders from the President. The position taken by the secretary of Foreign Affairs is also the same position taken by the President. So, it is irrelevant how China views Secretary Del Rosario because the policymaker, the chief policymaker is the President,” Lacierda said. — with Kimberly Jane Tan/RSJ/KBK, GMA News

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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