Did Sackur toy with Trillanes on ‘HardTalk’? » Manila Bulletin News



By Leandro DD Coronel

Leandro DD Coronel

Senator Sonny Trillanes went on BBC channel’s “HardTalk” chat show recently. The fairest way to assess how he did is for everyone to watch the whole interview and not rely on others’ opinion.

HardTalk’s Stephen Sackur is a tough interviewer. He does it on purpose to provoke and even intimidate his interviewees. He is relentless in his attempts to make his guests squirm in their seats.

Sackur inherited HardTalk from the suave and cosmopolitan Tim Sebastian, an even tougher interviewer than Sackur, a couple of years ago. Trying to fill Sebastian’s big shoes, Sackur plays tough with his interviewees.

But Sackur is no Tim Sebastian. Sebastian had the gravitas to be penetrating with his questions without appearing to be overbearing. And he had a disarming charm that made his guests appreciate him even as he went skewering them with pointed questions.

Sackur has been trying to match Sebastian’s searing interviewing style. But, again, he’s no Sebastian. At best, he’s Tim Sebastian Lite.

As Sebastian did in his time, Sackur usually sides with the underdog. With Trillanes, Sackur surprisingly took the side of the top dog, President Duterte. Consistently, Sackur made Duterte look like the good guy and Trillanes as a pesky troublemaker. That was a departure from HardTalk’s usual sympathy for the underdog.

But Trillanes was up to the task. He stood his ground with Sackur and gave as much as he took. He stayed on message, meaning he stuck to his line against Duterte. He didn’t waver, making one wonder how many Filipino politicians or activists are as gutsy as this guy.

On social media, Duterte fans averred that Trillanes did poorly against Sackur, and that Sackur toyed with him. That is plain nonsense. Those who say that must have watched a different interview. Or they have other motives for saying so.

My own view is that Trillanes responded to Sackur with confidence even though, truth to tell, there was really nothing new that he said. But, having said that, he didn’t need anything new to say, he said what’s been his grievance against Duterte. That’s his continuing message and he stuck to it.

Pro-Duterte observers bash critics of the administration relentlessly and with language that makes the squeamish nauseous and old ladies blush. Trillanes’ BBC interview got its share of bashing in order to devalue its potency.

Here’s something worth remembering: When people react to what some personality has said in a press interview or posted on social media, it means the reactors felt the sting of what was said.

Depending on their partisan slants, observers put out their spin on how Trillanes performed on HardTalk. Pro-Duterte pundits claim Sackur played with Trillanes. Anti-Duterte observers say Trillanes did very well.

But, again, the key to having a fair and truthful opinion on how Trillanes did on HardTalk is to watch the full interview. Don’t take my word for it. Or anybody else’s. Don’t let others influence your opinion, shape it yourself.


Tantrum Ergo. During the controversial period involving the Energy Regulatory Board’s chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, a constant stream of negative press coverage dogged him. But when he got suspended pending investigation of what was going on at the ERC, the negative stories stopped. Did the negative press stop because his detractors already got what they wanted, which was getting him out of their way?

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