AN uncanny similarity exists between the Mamasapano Oplan “Exodus” and the pullout of Philippine vessels in a standoff with China that led to the country’s loss of Scarborough Shoal.
Both operations were monumental disasters as a result of then-President Noynoy Aquino designating a lackey in a cloak-and-dagger manner to execute a mission known only to Aquino and his “agent.”
The agent was suspended Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima during “Exodus,” whose counterpart was Antonio Trillanes IV in the ill-fated withdrawal that should have been a mutual act, but China did not leave the area of dispute from then on and until now when the shoal has been reclaimed and permanent structures have been built.
Both flubs of Aquino were similar since he relied on text messages to follow the progress of the missions.
Both missions were no different from what is called online role-playing games (RPG) where there are no rules and which rely on hit-and-miss experience to succeed.
In essence, Aquino gave his designated head of operations blanket authority in the missions, which proved to be disastrous since, in both instances, wrong decisions were made, and in the case of Oplan “Exodus,” led to the death of 44 Special Action Force troopers.
What the nation lost in Scarborough was equally significant, as these are parts of the territory, and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile recalled that what particularly confounded him was that Aquino was not informed of the pullout of the Philippine vessels, the manner of which was apparently assigned to Trillanes.
For a day then, Trillanes acted as admiral of the Philippine Navy bypassing the chain of command similar to what Purisima did in the Mamasapano carnage.
A former official of the Department of Foreign Affairs privy to what was taking place then said Aquino waited for a text message from Trillanes, which did not come, apparently containing the details of the pullout.
Enrile said he was present when Trillanes boasted about his supposed back-channeling efforts on China during a meeting in Malacañang.
Enrile said he first learned of Trillanes’ role as a backdoor negotiator to China during the meeting, the exact date of which he cannot recall.
The meeting was a briefing by Secretary Albert del Rosario to President Aquino regarding the situation in the West Philippine Sea.
Aquino, Del Rosario, Enrile, and Trillanes were all in the meeting.
During the briefing by Del Rosario, Enrile recalled Trillanes whispering to him that the Foreign Affairs chief’s briefing is not true.
“So, I asked him (Trillanes), how did you know that it is not true, and he told me, ‘Because I went to China,’” Enrile said.
In the course of the discussion, Enrile said that Aquino made it clear that he gave the go signal to Trillanes to negotiate with China.
“So, I told Aquino, ‘Mr. President, these backdoor talks are dangerous to the interest of our country, they are not very wise,’” Enrile said.
According to Enrile, Del Rosario’s briefing was halted due to the revelation of the covert Trillanes operations.
It was then gathered that Trillanes made 16 trips to Beijing at the height of the tension in Scarborough Shoal.
“Whatever statements made during those meetings can be used against us in the future and may be against our country’s interest,” Enrile told Aquino.
Aquino, nevertheless, ignored Enrile’s advice and went with the plan of Trillanes.
As advised by Trillanes, Aquino ordered the pullout of two Philippine ships, one from the Philippine Navy and another from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, from Panatag Shoal.
“There was no question that Trillanes was successful in the sense that he gave favor to China,” Enrile said.
The agreement was both Philippine and Chinese ships should pull out from the area to deescalate the tension.
According to Enrile, Trillanes’ trip to China only implied to the Chinese that the Philippines is weak.
“He (Trillanes) created the impression that the Philippines is weak, and that gave China the opportunity to press its interest in the West Philippine Sea,” said Enrile.
Enrile said Trillanes was apparently “misled” by his Chinese contacts, saying “the Chinese are more intelligent than him (Trillanes).”
“The trouble with people is that they present themselves what they are not,” Enrile noted.
The “Fifth Columnist” as Enrile called Trillanes now even has the gall to seek public support as a candidate for the presidency citing his “nationalistic” aims.
(Note: Published on The Daily Tribune website on May 15, 2021, https://tribune.net.ph/index.php/2021/05/15/noynoy-plays-rpg/)