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Trump called Trillanes ‘little narco’? Columnist apologized; here’s what we know about the story

Senator Antonio Trillanes tagged the column claiming that US President Donald Trump called him “little narco” as fake news, a claim that the columnist later apologized for.

Trillanes was reacting to a column by Al Pedroche that was published by the Philippine Star on October 30, 2017 with the title, “’Little Narco’ met with Sen. Marco – Trump.”

Pedroche wrote how Trump seemed to be a “natural comic” when the American president commented on Trillanes’ meeting with US Senator Marco Rubio. He quoted Trump saying, “The little Narco met with Sen. Marco.”
Trump allegedly made the comment before departing on Marine One when reporters asked him whether it was true that Trillanes tried to convince him to cancel his visit to the Philippines this November.

“Senator who? Like I said senator who? The li’l narco who met Marco? How’d he get a visa? Isn’t he wanted, doesn’t he have an arrest warrant or something?” Trump was quoted saying to reporters.

“I’m going to Manila to meet the main guy. A leaders’ leader, man’s man Rody, we talk from time to time, he’s the head of ASEAN right now and when you do deal you deal with the boss,” Trump allegedly said.

But the Philippine Star deleted the column. The page where the column used to be found now bears this Editor’s Note: “ has made the column article “Little Marco met Sen. Marco – Trump” unavailable due to questions on the sourcing and verification of its content.”

We found an archived version of the deleted column, though, which can you access here.

The sources

We found a post by Facebook user Edwin Cruz tracing the source of the “little narco” story. He said that it actually came from Bobby Capco, a former journalist and press undersecretary, who posted Trump’s alleged comment about Trillanes on October 26, 2017 at 7:58 AM, Philippine time. Facebook page “Syet Da Pwet” also posted about it on the same day, just a minute after Capco’s post. On October 30, Pedroche’s column was published. The next day, Nieto commented on the matter.

Cruz also included a transcript of Trump’s remarks before Marine One Departure.

Trump’s alleged “little narco” remark was not found in the transcript published by The White House on October 25.

Tracing what Cruz’s said in his post, we found Capco’s October 26 post.

Asked by one of his commenters if what he posted was not fake news, he said that he could not reveal his source then, describing that source as a “former broadcast journalist in Manila who now lives and works in the US, and is accredited with the White House press office.” He added that his source would reveal himself soon. Capco also denied spreading fake news and noted how he never gave fake stories when he served as a Malacañang Press Undersecretary before.

And here’s Syet Da Pwet’s post on the same day as Capco’s.

Blogger RJ Nieto, also known as Thinking Pinoy, reacted to Pedroche’s column on October 31 and even asked, “Does Trump’s government know something?”

In the comments section, he posted Pedroche’s column for his readers’ reference.

Pro-Duterte political commentator Sass Rogando Sasot also asked Trillanes whether he’d comment on the issue.

Franco Mabanta weighed in on the issue and even said that his uncle said that Trillanes’ event in California was empty, just like what happened in New York.

Even th e satirical site Adobo Chronicles was falsely accused as the source of the story after it published its satire “Trump Calls Trillanes A ‘Narco;’ Trillanes Calls Trump A ‘Wacko’ on October 31. However, the site was also using Pedroche’s October 30 column as its reference.

On November 1, another column on Philippine Star, Mary Ann Reyes, wrote about the “little narco” comment, a piece called “A major embarrassment.”

But Reyes’ column was also taken down on November 3.

On November 3, Capco shared the post of his source, Mike Cohen, identified as a former ABS-CBN reporter and now a New York-based freelance writer.

“The remarks as relayed to me were not part of the official pool – but – was overheard. It’s not just Bob and a few others sharing this – but – has been widespread. Some have even twisted things a bit – adding or subtracting things. All I know what Bob shared is pretty much what I got as well – from well-placed sources,” Cohen wrote.

On November 5, another Philippine Star article, “’No Trump mention of Trillanes,’” covered the “little narco” story, trying to sort out its sources.
The report said that in another correspondence, Pedroche told the Philippine Star that he found the pun funny and decided to write about it in his column.

“I just found the punning attributed to Trump funny that’s why I used it, coming from a source I had no reason to doubt,” Pedroche said.

“I have no way of checking its veracity but since it was written as a column and not news, I used it not realizing its far-reaching implication,” he added.

Capco also talked to the Philippine Star about his controversial post and maintained that he trusted Cohen as his source.

“We had been in contact for a long time now, and I just shared what he gave me, without naming names,” Capco said.

Trillanes reacts

Trillanes branded the “little narco” story as fake and called out Nieto, adding that such a “significant remark” from Trump would have been covered by the mainstream media, not only by fake news sources, bloggers, websites, and tabloid columns.

“That’s fake news. They can’t even cite the news outfit that conducted the interview. In the first place, those senior US government officials would not meet with me if I had dubious credentials. It goes to show that this RJ Nieto a.k.a Thinking Pinoy is not thinking after all. Moreover, a significant remark like that would’ve been captured by mainstream media and not released through bloggers, fake news websites and tabloid columns. Let us be more discerning about these things,” he wrote on November 1.

The next day, he also tagged Reyes’ column as “fake news.”

On November 4, Trillanes made another post about Pedroche’s apology in another Philippine Star column, “Fake news inupakan ni Sen. Trilanes,” and said that he accepted the columnist’s apology. He added that he was waiting for Thinking Pinoy and columnist Reyes to issue their own apologies.

In his column, Pedroche wrote:

“Ako naman talaga ang may sagutin dahil sa kolum ko lumabas ang sinabi ng isang source na tinawag na “little narco” ni US President Trump si Sen. Antonio Trillanes, bagay na pinasinungalingan ng Senador. Mukha kasing nagpapatawa si Trump (kung siya nga ang nagsabi) sa ginawa niyang paglalaro sa magkatunog na katagang “Narco” at Marco.”

“Pero hindi ko inaabsuwelto ang sarili ko bagamat sina­sabi kong ito’y isinulat ko bilang opinion writer base sa sinabi sa akin ng isang source na pinaniniwalaan kong katiwatiwala. Isa pa, naisulat ko ito nang walang pagpaparatang kay Trillanes. Hindi ko rin sinabing totoo o hindi totoo ang pangyayari na inakala ko lang na nakakatawa ang laro sa salita ni Trump, kung sinabi niya nga na “the little Narco met with Sen. Marco”. Pero dahil nakasakit ako ng kalooban, masasabi ko’y mea culpa. Sorry.”

Here’s a screenshot of Pedroche’s apology:

Trillanes said on November 7 during the Kapihan sa Senado that he intends to sue Nieto for libel for purportedly spreading fake news about him being called as a “little narco.”

“Well pini-prepare na ng abogado ko yung libel case so kakasuhan namin siya ng libel, yung nagkalat sila ng fake news na tinawag daw ako ni President Trump na ‘little narco’,” Trillanes said.

“Maliwanag na ‘yon doon sa US government website on the presidential pronouncements and interviews, wala talaga doon. So kasinungalingan talaga ‘yan. It’s a propaganda operation na sasalabungin ko ‘yan,” he added.

But Trillanes did not specify a date as to when he would file the libel case against Nieto.

Thinking Pinoy reacts, too

After Pedroche issued his apology to Trillanes, Nieto mused in his November 5 post whether the columnist was making an apology “under duress” and whether a government official violated his right to free speech. He added a question as to whether the Commission on Human Rights would investigate the issue or not.

In his Facebook post on November 7, Nieto scored Trillanes for singling him out, an “independent blogger,” with his libel threats while seemingly sparing columnist Reyes and Cohen.

“What interesting in this entire brou-ha-ha is that Trillanes seems to have spared Philstar columnist Mary Ann Reyes, and ABS-CBN stringer Mike K Cohen. Instead, the idiot focused only on me, an independent blogger,” Nieto wrote.

“Wag mo namang insultuhin ang pagiging senador. At kaninong pera ang ipanggagastos mo sa pagdedemanda?” he added. “MULA SA BUWIS NG BAYAN?”

Nieto also defended himself saying that his ‘libelous’ statement has the word “reportedly.”

“It is disappointing to see a lawmaker who is ignorant of the law. The allegedly libelous statement contains the word ‘reportedly’,” Nieto told GMA News Online in a text message.

“I hope the Senator, who appears to have no access to a dictionary, can at least Google what that word means,” he added.

Sources: ( , )

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