He may be famous for his military adventurist ways a few years back, but that didn’t stop him from pushing for his advocacies. People say he has a slim chance of winning a seat in the senate, but he believes otherwise. He’s the youngest among all the senatoriables at 35 years of age, and, according to some, the most ideal of all. He hasn’t a pinch of politics in his body—yet—and that could very well make him a cut above the rest.

Navy Lieutenant Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV, or “Sonny” to some, was a Navy Procurement Officer before he was detained for the famous Oakwood Mutiny last July 2003.

The famous mutiny, where over 300 junior officers and enlisted men took over the Oakwood Premiere Suites in Ayala Center, Makati, could very well be his claim to fame. He noted, however, that the alleged mutiny is not an attempt to oust the president, but merely an avenue to address their grievances of widespread corruption both in the military and in the government. He explained that there is no effective grievance system existing in the military organization, that’s why they chose such an avenue.

“Wala po (pertaining to grievance system)! Kahit yung grievance committee that the Feliciano Commission talked about; that is inexistent! Nobody can just complain that this officer is a scalawag, that he converted so many millions, Come on! Iipitin ka lang. (They’ll squeeze you.) Alam po namin yan. (We know that.) That is the culture, the nature of the organization we are in,” he said in an earlier magazine interview.

Presently, he is incarcerated at the military brigade in Fort Bonifacio and is currently undergoing trial for the said mutiny.

Their group’s name, “Magdalo”, is what Trillanes is using as a moniker, because his candidacy, he says, embodies the ideals and advocacies of the said group.

“I (also) would like to pursue the advocacies we started three years ago, albeit in another forum. Finally, I believe the elections are the only peaceful avenue left for the Filipinos to effect change in leadership of this country,” he said in an earlier statement announcing his candidacy.

The name “Magdalo” is homage to Emilio Aguinaldo’s faction of the Katipunan Chapter in Cavite that supported and pushed for a revolutionary government as a replacement for the Katipunan. Is Trillanes, then, the Aguinaldo of this time?

He could very well be. Coming from a military family, where his father is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, it is not difficult to deduce the path he’d take, even if he has an Electronics and Communications Engineering degree from De La Salle University.

He graduated Cum Laude from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) back in 1995, where he also received the Mathematics, Physical Science and the Tambuli Award for Electrical/Electronics Engineering.

Shortly after, he served in the Navy logging-in a Total Steaming Time (TST) of 2,593 hrs and 47 min and Total Miles Covered (TMC) of 35, 316.78 nautical miles. During which time, his unit was responsible for the apprehension of dozens of smugglers, illegal loggers, poachers, human smugglers and illegal fishermen in numerous maritime law enforcement operations conducted in the waters off Batanes, Ilocos, Cagayan, Isabela, Zambales, Scarborough, Quezon, Bicol, Palawan, Mindoro, Romblon, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Davao and Maguindanao.

His wife, to whom he has three children named Francis Seth, Thea Estelle and Alan Andrew (deceased), is also an officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Arlene Orejana-Trillanes, a graduate of PMA Class 1997, is one of the first seven female cadets to graduate from the PMA. She has been teaching in the academy for several years, and is a member of the Armed Forces’ Corps of Professors.

But unlike the wives of other senatoriables, Arlene is unable to accompany her husband or even aid in his campaign due to the nature of her work. For one, she’s in Australia now undergoing further training for the Corps. But more than that, the law prohibits any AFP Officer from meddling in the affairs of partisan politics. "Our (political) right is just to register and vote," Navy Commander Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said of Trillanes’ wife’s situation. "And, unless she sheds the uniform, she is covered by military regulations on partisan politics," he said.

While still in the service, Trillanes studied at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance from 2000-2005, mastering in Public Administration major in Public Policy and Program Management. This is where he studied and scrutinized the corruption in the Navy, from which he wrote the famous “Trillanes Papers”.

The Trillanes Papers consisted of two term papers entitled “A Study on Corruption in the Philippine Navy” and “Corruption in the Philippine Navy Procurement System” dealt with what the he portrayed as widespread corruption in the procurements system of the Philippine Navy.

On the first paper, Trillanes listed the prevalent forms of corruption, ranging from outright bribery or lagay to rigged biddings and ghost deliveries.

On the second paper, Trillanes surveyed 30 Navy suppliers on their perception of the extent of corruption in Navy procurements. His findings show that paying grease money and negotiated and rigged biddings are the most common forms of corruption encountered by the suppliers. The survey also showed that the offices within the Philippine Navy that are most corrupt include the Commission on Audit branch there, the Accounting Office; and the Procurement Office. Suppliers said they resorted to payoffs in order to expedite the processing of papers and to obtain contracts.

Combatting corruption, therefore, has been a crucial part of his advocacy. In his 4-point legislative agenda, he highlighted Anti-Corruption, Anti-Poverty, Peace & Order, Education, Health and Social Services measures as the main concerns of his candidacy.

But Trillanes, to this day, remains detained and under the custody of the AFP even if he was deemed resigned from the service upon filing his candidacy before the Comelec, as stated in the Omnibus Election Code.

"Yes, he (Trillanes) is deemed resigned from the service but the military still has custody over him because he committed the alleged crime while still in active service," Navy Comander Bacordo said in an earlier interview, shortly after Trillanes filed his candidacy at the Commision on Elections office in Caloocan, where he used to reside (before being detained). This renders him unable to personally campaign for his candidacy as a member of the Genuine Opposition (GO) slate.

But despite being detained, Trillanes is still confident he would be able to maximize his time and resources for his campaign.

"I have many supporters, we will launch a proxy campaign all over the country," Trillanes said in Filipino during a radio interview when asked if he was confident of securing a Senate seat.

On how he will conduct his campaign, he then replied: "We will maximize technology – TV, radio, print, text (SMS) and the Internet. I would like to believe that the nature of political campaigns has evolved over the past few elections."

As a matter of fact, Trillanes is one of the very few senatoriables, along with Rep. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who is utilizing the internet for their senatorial bid.

Last December 2006, through the help of his friends, he ws able to open a Friendster account to reach out to the youth, arguably a very significant portion of this country’s electorate.

Subsequently, his supporters put up a blog entitled “Magdalo para sa Pagbabago” to aid in his campaign, frequently posting news updates about the senatorial candidate. Through the blog, they are able to disseminate information about the senator by posting news bits and occasional statements from the detained mutineer.

But it was not all smooth-sailing for this techno-savvy senatoriable. For one, the aforementioned blog was threatened of being shut down due to allegations that a military officer is behind its operations. But military officials didn’t pursue the action because there was no proof to justify the allegations.

Recently, his petition to be allowed media access to ventilate his message to voters was denied by the court.

In a 4-page decision, Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Oscar Pimentel said Trillanes must yield to the internal rules of the Marine Brig where he is detained, and the proceedings of the court, which does not allow subjudice statements.

Pimentel said that while Trillanes invoked the freedom of the press in his motion, "there are questions and answers which might constitute subjudice statements which would eventually jeopardize the proceedings in this court."

Earlier, fellow GO Senatoriable Rep. Noynoy Aquino urged the government to “do a Marcos on Trillanes.” Aquino asked the government, specifically the president, to allow Trillanes media access so that he will be able to ventilate his views and advocacies to the voters.

Aquino noted that when his father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy" Aquino Jr, ran for a seat in the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978 while detained at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, then President Ferdinand Marcos allowed him to be interviewed on television.

If a dictator like Marcos could allow his bitterest political rival to campaign through the media during the martial law yeras, Aquino said he could not find a reason why Mrs Arroyo could not do the same for Trillanes.

“He should be given the opportunity to share his message through media interviews." It is better that he is now using the power of the ballots, and not the bullets," said Aquino.

“Trillanes is opting for electoral reforms. We must encourage him for going within the system. The charges are not the issue. The issue here is that bumabalik na siya sa ilalim ng sistema (he is going back to the fold of the system)," Aquino explained.

“In this particular case, I urge the Arroyo government to do a Marcos," Aquino said.

“Pag hindi po ito nangyari, aba’y mas masahol pala po tayo sa Marcos government (If this does not happen, we seem to be in a worse situation than under the Marcos government)," the younger Aquino pointed out.

Having lost his appeal for a voice in the media, Trillanes then lived within his means. Despite not being able to personally campaign for his candidacy, he was able to issue several statements through his blog regarding some of the different political and social situations in the country.

In a statement last December 2006 announcing his desire to run for Senator, he mentioned his disgust of the moves by the House of Representative to change the country’s charter.

“…in light of the new developments in the House of Representatives where the Administration seems to be hell-bent on pushing for Charter Change regardless of all the legal barriers against it, even this avenue (elections) may be taken away from us,” Trillanes said, adding: “I am therefore calling on the people to be vigilant in the coming days to ensure that our right to choose our own leaders are not trampled upon.”

He said the administration’s allies in the House of Representatives tried to ram through their constituent assembly proposal because “they are convinced that we are apathetic enough as a people not to do anything about it.”

He expressed elation that his faith in the Filipino people was vindicated by the united front formed against the Con-Ass.

In his GO Proclamation Rally statement, he condemned the illegitimacy of the Arroyo administration, saying: “…narinig mismo natin sa “Hello Garci” kung gaano kagahaman sa kapangyarihan si GMA. Wag na po tayong umasa na magbabago sya. Sa madaling salita: walang kapayapaan at walang pag-unlad habang nakaupo si GMA. (we heard straight from “Hello Garci” how much GMA is greedy for power. Let us not expect her to change. In other words, there is no peace and development while GMA is the president.”

If elected senator, he added, “…ngayon pa lang ay sasabihin ko na ang boto ko sa impeachment court: GUILTY. Guilty si GMA sa pagsisinungaling, pandaraya at pagnanakaw. Guilty rin sya sa pagpatay, pang-aabuso, pang-aapi, at pagpapahirap sa mga mamamayan. (Even this early on I’m telling you what my vote in the impeachment court will be: GUILTY. GMA is guilty of lying, cheating and stealing. She’s also guilty of killing, abusing and oppressing the citizens of this country)”

On conservatice Catholic issues regarding Family Planning, he included in his legislative agenda a clause about “a bill which would provide for the creation and/or strengthening of health centers in every barangay with adequate funding in order to provide basic health care services (including mandatory inoculation) as well as health education with emphasis on disease prevention, detection and control, pre-natal and child care and basic family planning education (with due regard to religious belief of the participants).”

To help improve the country’s economy, he aims to “reengineer government processes to reduce bureaucratic red tape and minimize the points of contact between the public official and client. This would hasten business transactions, encourage economic activities and minimize opportunities for bribery and extortion practices.”

He also proposes to draft a bill promoting the funding of microfinance to provide small and medium enterprises, which “would encourage economic activities and create income and employment for the poor.”

He also aims to propose the creation of at least one state college or university in every region, the increase in the teacher’s wages, and the strengthening of the “Study Now, Pay Later” program of the government.

Through such statements and advocacies, Trillanes vows to be faithful in his ideals and in serving the Filipino people.

As of late, Trillanes is still trailing behind the surveys on possible winning senatoriables. In the latest SWS Survey, he ranked 24th with a meagre 12% nod from the respondents. However, he ranked 9th in the SSS Employees’ Union Mock National Elections, 7th in the Senatorial Street Surveys and 5th in the Abante poll surveys.

Is he, therefore, getting the votes of the ordinary, “masa” Filipino? We’ll soon find out.—John Mark Tuazon

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