Trillanes can’t forget Arroyo in green pajamas
He was focused on “Greenbase,” but all that was talked about was then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s green pajamas.
Thus did Senator Antonio Trillanes IV wryly recall the night he had an emergency meeting with Arroyo weeks before the Oakwood mutiny on July 27, 2003.
“I have always wondered why the green pajamas became a big deal [in the media],” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview shortly before the failed mutiny’s eighth anniversary. “But, yeah, she was in green terno (matching) pajamas.”
At that time, Navy Lieutenant Trillanes had been monitored as leading a coup plot against Arroyo. To clarify matters, he agreed to meet with the then President through a former classmate working in Malacañang.
But he himself had a pressing reason for wanting to see Arroyo, Trillanes said.
He wanted to ask her about “Oplan Greenbase,” a supposed secret government plot to sow terror in Mindanao, pin the blame on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and convince the global community to declare the MILF an “international terrorist group” in an effort to draw more antiterror funds.
‘What’s this, Ma’am?’
Trillanes said Oplan Greenbase included the “clearing” of the Buliok complex in Pikit, North Cotabato, from MILF influence so that the land, believed to be rich in oil and other natural resources, could be developed by foreign business groups.
He said the bombing in March and April 2003 of the Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf, both in Davao City, where scores of civilians were killed, were also implementations of Greenbase.
“I had to find out whether President Arroyo was in on it or not. That’s how I ended up in Malacañang [on July 13, 2011], to see for myself,” Trillanes said.
He continued with his story: “I presented [the document] to her. [I said,] ‘Ma’am, what is this? Can you explain to us what this is all about, because this is causing a lot of demoralization in the ranks?’
“She went over it. She didn’t speak. Sa taray niya (despite her shrewish manner)—you know, like if I show you a check with your signature, if it’s not yours, you’d react—but she just kept quiet. She looked at General (Delfin) Bangit, and Bangit intervened. He said, ‘You know, hijo (son), there are some things you don’t need to know.’”
“That was not the answer I was looking for.
“Then I said something like, ‘This officer is corrupt, and you are going to promote him.’ And I was waiting for her to tell me, ‘Ganito kasi yan (This is how it is)…’
“I was still holding on to the Edsa II propaganda—that we removed a corrupt president and replaced him with this woman who will usher in new politics, new government, moral regeneration. A woman with a Ph.D. and political pedigree. I was still holding on … But nothing.
“In that meeting, I saw what a heartless person she was. She did not deserve to stay a second longer in office. She didn’t care about the soldiers, about the people. Nothing. The only thing she cared about was her image as President. I saw it, believe me. I felt it. Which was why my determination was firmed up.”
‘Oakwood was ours’
On July 27, 2003, 321 soldiers, Trillanes among them, seized the posh Oakwood serviced apartments in Makati City to demand the resignation of Arroyo and other government officials.
The standoff with state forces was short-lived, and Trillanes was detained along with hundreds of others.
He was elected senator while in detention in May 2007, and released on amnesty in December 2010.
Trillanes denied that he and his colleagues had plotted a coup.
“There was a plot. There was a crackdown. And then there was another plot that was carried out. But what we are talking about, this Oakwood, is none of the above,” Trillanes said.
“Oakwood was ours, and it was not connected to any politician. If some people took advantage of our gripes, it was no longer our problem, even if we paid for it. We would like to believe that we did it for the right reasons. It was never about power, or money,” he said.
Trillanes said that since late 2002, he and other members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1995 had been organizing a “fraternity” of like-minded officers with a long-term goal: “When it’s our time to lead the [military], we will have a generation of upright officers.”
He said the fraternity held “gripe sessions” where the soldiers aired their grievances against the government, such as poor equipment, the discontinuance of the rice subsidy granted by President Joseph Estrada, etc.
Sense of urgency
Trillanes said Greenbase gave him and his colleagues a sense of urgency to make a move: “We wanted to tell the world, ‘This is your President, this is your kind of President.”
He pointed out that he had spoken with the Commander in Chief and gone “through the chain about Greenbase.”
“When I found out she was in on it, I had nowhere to go. There was no choice but to go to the people directly. We were naively thinking that the people would see the light and the media would report it the way they did in Edsa Dos,” Trillanes said.
“But our problem was it was not that easy to deliver such a complicated message to the public. And the media had other motivations. The media installed Arroyo, so they were inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt,” he said.
Trillanes said he and his colleagues presented their message to the people, who ignored it (“dinedma ng tao”).
“The people have spoken, so they get the government that they deserve,” he said.
And instead of tackling the issue of Greenbase, Trillanes said, the media focused on soldiers’ decrepit combat boots, and even the green pajamas that Arroyo was wearing on the night she met with him.
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