[Photo source: ABS-CBN News]

by Wilfredo G. Villanueva

(This article was written before Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV was arrested on Tuesday, Sept. 25 by a team led by Makati police chief Senior Superintendent Rogelio Simon for the charge of rebellion, based on an arrest warrant issued by Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 Executive Judge Elmo Alameda.)

This is a story about two men. One is head of a country, the other is his most vocal critic. They are both holed up in positions that are immovable, not open to compromise. In Tagalog, kahiyaan na, walang atrasan, nakakalalake na. Both of them are victorious, if you listen to their own set of supporters, but one of them is in a wretched state.

Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV sleeps in his office, far away from family. His makeshift bed was a narrow, black leather couch organic to his office until one of his supporters sent him a collapsible bed. The day I interviewed him, his office took delivery of a wider bed, so he could turn and stretch, a luxury devoutly to be wished. His staff of some 20 personnel work through the night, for as long as he doesn’t call it a day. They stay in cramped comfort, all told about the size of two schoolrooms with dividers for the reception, staff room with cubicles, and the senator’s office. He uses a tabo (dipper) to take a bath—Senate toilets being devoid of shower heads. His wife Arlene drops by regularly to lend a semblance of normalcy. Cushy, cool, but he cannot go beyond the confines of the institution he has dutifully served lest he be arrested. He is after all in Senate custody.

“You haven’t seen blue sky since Sept. 4, Senator Trillanes?” I asked.


(He’s 20 years my junior, so my paternal instincts kicked in and I took the liberty to give advice. “Take in some sunshine, the source of Vitamin D, a deficiency of which could lead to ill health,” I said. “Yes,” he said.)

“How are your children taking this?” I asked.

“As normal as we possibly can,” he said.

“Do they not say, this is not the kind of life we want?”

“Early on, they know the kind of work I do, and we’re happy that way. They get their strength from me. They look at me, how I behave, how I talk and smile and laugh, and when they see the same father that they know, they are all right. They mirror me.”

And so, here is the most forceful critic of President Duterte, the one who exposed the bank accounts, the one who put Polong Duterte on the spot for his tattoo, the one who calls Duterte duwag, ensconced in the Senate, safe from harm, but he says, “So far.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte is sick, of what, the citizenry could only guess by looking at his ashen face. Kidney trouble? No one can tell. A medical bulletin doesn’t seem to be a part of protocol for this president. But he is in charge. A bull that keeps on charging, suspected colostomy bag and all. He probably discussed with Solicitor General Jose Calida the withdrawal of the senator’s amnesty before he flew to Israel and Jordan several weeks ago, mapping out legal strategy, for after all, he is a prosecutor, the one who admits to planting evidence and shooting a kneeling man in cold blood, telling stories of brain splatter. SolGen was facing a probe in the Senate for corruption allegations, and that must have given the move an urgency all its own. Proclamation 572 was issued, declaring null and void an amnesty as far as Senator Trillanes is concerned—he alone, exclusively—the reason why he cannot leave the confines of the Senate where a warrantless arrest should bear no legality and will be resisted measure-for-measure by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

The President goes about his routine, upending every teaspoon, basin, reservoir of value and principle, breaker of all things visible and invisible, causing consternation among his indefatigable critics, but laughter and cheering from his supporters—fictitious Facebook accounts, actually. He asked whimsically: “Presidente ba talaga ako?” when the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police didn’t go fetch as he ordered, to arrest the senator.  Rules-based po, they said. Two Makati regional trial courts will sift through evidence before it issues an arrest warrant. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Uneasy for dictators masquerading as benevolent democrats.

“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest of his fiercest critic in Congress after revoking the senator’s amnesty for involvement in unsuccessful military uprisings years ago.” (Asia Pacific News)

Upon assumption into office, then president Benigno S. Aquino III under Proclamation 50 granted amnesty to military officers and personnel who participated in the Oakwook mutiny in 2003, the Marines standoff in 2006, and the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007. Senator Trillanes was one of the recipients of the act of goodwill on the part of government.

The amnesty sought “to promote an atmosphere conducive to the attainment of a just, comprehensive and enduring peace and in line with the Government’s peace and reconciliation initiatives.” (Rappler)

Senator Antonio Trillanes condemned Duterte’s move to invalidate his amnesty, a move made public Sept. 4, as illegal and “a clear case of political persecution.”

“Ang nakalagay kasi doon sa application form is a general admission of guilt na merong nalabag na kahit na anong batas, whether sa Armed Forces or Revised Penal Code. Ever since po, ‘di naman kami nagpanggap na ‘yung ginawa namin na pagpunta sa Oakwood, sa Manila Pen, ay natural na ginagawa ng sundalo. (It was indicated in the application form that there is a general admission of guilt that there were laws violated, whether in the Armed Forces or the Revised Penal Code. Ever since, we never pretended that what we did in Oakwood and Manila Pen are normal acts of soldiers). We are man enough to admit na we have broken rules in the pursuit of our moral cause and we faced it like men. Nakulong po kami (We were jailed).” (Rappler)

After Senate leaders assured—“One hundred per cent,” the senator said—that they would not allow his arrest in the Senate, Trillanes said “he would stay in the building while police officers waited outside in a looming standoff.”

Supporters of Senator Trillanes, loosely called dilawan, without hesitation threw a cordon of extra pairs of eyes and ears for the senator as he hunkered down in his tiny office. For seven days, the #Democracy Camp was set up at the gates of the Senate where supporters prayed the four mysteries of the Holy Rosary daily, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, held a procession in honor of “Ina,” the Virgin of Peñafrancia of Bicol, pitched tents, shouted chants of “Trillanes, Trillanes!” received bottles of water and food from donors and tons of media coverage. Media, too, had encamped in the fifth floor to report on the unfolding events. Media coverage of protest at the Senate gates itself was a fortunate byproduct of the threat to arrest the senator without warrant.

“I would go with the arresting officers,” Senator Trillanes said. “If the arrest is in order. I will abide, I will not evade.”

Local and international media gave the standoff a ring of crisis, and the president relented, wary of unraveling popularity and support. Instead of clearing the road to his style of governance, he found it strewn with boulders from an erupting volcano, this as evidenced by international news reports and analysis, and social media postings and comments.

On Sept. 7, Malacañang announced President Duterte “has decided to abide by the rule of law and wait for the court to issue an arrest warrant against Trillanes.” (Sun Star Manila)

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said: “Ang desisyon ng Presidente (The President’s decision) is he will allow the judicial process to proceed and he will await the issuance of appropriate warrant of arrest, if there is indeed one to be issued before Senator Trillanes is arrested and apprehended.”

The statement helped quell the firestorm—did the President blink?—but the Senator remained in his office, calling the situation fluid. After all, the President doesn’t want to be contradicted. He takes it personally, as what happened to Senator Leila de Lima.

So there you have it. A story about two men from opposite sides of the political spectrum. One should be wretched in the narrow bed of custody, but he is not. One should be safe and secure in power but he is not, aware ever so conclusively that he is up against a system that respects rules, the very opposite of the sordid methods he espouses and employs, why he came to power. He could only curse so much, could only disrespect God and the Constitution willfully and incessantly so much, but in the end, God’s commandments as reflected in the 1987 Constitution prevails, whether or not he likes it.


Sources: Rappler, Asia Pacific News, Sun Star Manila


36 Responses to “Wretched”
  1. andrewlim8 says:

    It has been always this way in this country: the battle is always between good and evil, between right and wrong. May the Filipino people choose well, and not justify wrong and injustice in exchange for personal benefit or tribal/ethnic reasons .

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Yes. Always been this way. Always been sink or swim. Outcome always uncertain. Fr. Horatio dela Costa was right: we have our faith and music. Faith to make us persevere, music to gladden our hearts as we praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

  2. edgar lores says:

    Who is more wretched?

    (Wretched means “in a very unhappy or unfortunate state.”

    It is not Senator Trillanes. (He was laughing in his interview yesterday.)

    It could be Mister Duterte, as Senator Trillanes call him.

    Ultimately, it is the people.

    “The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damnés de la Terre)” is a 1961 book by Frantz Fanon. He was referring to the individuals and nations subjected to colonization. Today, the wretched of the earth are the citizens of authoritarian regimes who are deprived of liberty, living in disquiet, subject to violence, and victims of the lies of the state.

    • LG says:

      Smiling SenTri might view his arrest as a good sign of the significance of his present acts. His mind and spirit must be empowered while his freedom is curtailed.

      Arrest for the old sins to avert the goodness of the present acts. Satan is on earth.

  3. arlene says:

    You write beautifully Wil. The more I admire Sen. Trillanes now, the guy with conviction and will to defend the country. Good morning guys!

  4. LG says:

    To be “wretched” is to be miserable, unhappy to put it mildly. IMHO, Duterte must have been sick-wretched all his life, inflicts pain on others to feel unsustainable happiness. Because such happiness is time limited, for sustainability, compels repetitive Hitlerian acts.

    Hitler was not known to be a happy person; self destructed. To end his misery?

    IMHO, as pain-inflicting SenTri’s arrest might be to him, his family and followers, such might be a blessing in disguise. The strength of his cause could be rising for his arrest underscores the significance of the cause and the wretchedness of Duterte and some of his men, especially that of Calida and others who wields injustic.

    SenTri is fast developing into a symbol of good cause, significant enough for its development to be aborted by those opposing it that has the power to.

    A good cause is timeless, its opposing power is temporal at best.

  5. chemrock says:

    As another icon of democracy is being burnt, 16 m cheered deliriously and the rest of the nation, like Nero, watched passively as the fire spreads. Fools all, I say. May you eat more weevils in the days to come.

    More weevils, if that’s what it will take to chase away evils.

    • Francis says:


      “We want discipline.”

      Ask and ye shall recieve. This nation shall be “disciplined” into learning (again) that authoritarian populism is no short-cut to prosperity.

      • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

        Ang galing. I hope the imperatives of growing up will sink in. That it doesn’t depend on a strong leader alone, but on strong followers who are willing to carry the cross up the hill of self-determination.

      • madlanglupa says:

        Instant gratification has been so warped into many peoples’ minds, it would be a great challenge to do social transformation after this period of insanity.

      • distant observer says:

        Very well put Francis.

  6. Gyrzyxwoz says:

    Actually, we HAVEN’ haven’t been passing the ammunition lately

  7. madlanglupa says:

    Offtopic: Alas, the words.

    • Hahaha! We think alike, madlanglupa. I was just going to post this:

      “Ako I will talk to a political exercise now. What are your sins? Ako? Sabi ko nga sa military, ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako diyan ni piso? Did I prosecute somebody na pinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang ‘yung mga extrajudicial killing,”


      Nagnakaw ba? We do not know because he will not sign a bank waiver.

      Nangpakulong ba? Yes. Proof? Sen De Lima on trumped up evidence. Soon, SenTri on a proclamation that does not hold water. Even layman sees that the motivation is political persecution.

      EJK? Tama siya. It was his order and incessant dog whistle that killed thousands of “innocent under proven guilty” tagged as drug pusher/addicts.

      Is he wretched? Sure is. He is wretched because he is guilty of all the things he had done. So wretched that he in distress every waking hour. His only relief is from a habit forming prescription med called Fentanyl. He admitted publicly that he abused it before. He admitted publicly that he takes it continuously. The street addict is self-medicating through shabby because of his chronic pain brought about by wretched living condition and he, the president, has the money to pay a doctor to prescribe him legal opiod for his own chronic pain. Bottom line, there is not much difference between him and the street addict. Both feels wretched and have their drug of choice based on their socio-economic condition.

  8. caliphman says:

    The real story is not Trillanes being arrested and probable imprisonment but that judges and justices from top to bottom are so willing to make a mockery of the constitution in order to silence snd punish critics of the regime. Trillanes held out a slim hope that a residue of decency, conscience and self-pride still existed in the court system. That is a measure of the man, his faith that right is might. In this besotted government and accursed country, this is but mere fantasy unless others of Trillanes ilk are left to carry on his fight and legacy.

  9. OOT: The article below, while enlightening on its own, also contains 2 links. The first one is for the 2017 Corruption Index where PH dropped 13 notches and the second one is for a Gallup report titled 2018 Global Law and Order which reveals that there is no significant change in how Filipinos view their safety when compared to the 2016 data.


  10. Tweeto Wakatono says:

    in the form of wannabe poetry:

    England and the rest of Europe saw it
    HOW France demonstrate the ultimate solution
    and these countries have no need for it anymore
    because they avoided the ultimate
    consequence of the problem.

    Laguna Lake abused by people living
    in its WATERSHED makes the Bay truly
    UNRECLAIMABLE to its pristine origin.

    During the wet season as the headwaters
    of the Pasig from Napindan turns brown
    because of eroded clay soils and turns dirty black
    during the heat of summer because
    of human garbage and industrial detritus,

    the ageing river once upon a time missed
    it’s golden chance to be a red river
    of a metroplitan valley that will cure
    like France its evil sickened soul.

    Only Andres Bonifacio saw it then,
    only Ninoy saw it later a century later
    both fell in the darkest of the night
    as people sleeps that of the just.
    In patience God waits for another France
    to make the Pasig the red river of action
    and contrition cleansing
    the sins of centuries.

    in the form of wannabe essay:

    England and the rest of Europe saw it HOW France demonstrate the ultimate solution and these countries have no need for it anymore because they avoided the ultimate consequence of the problem.

    Laguna Lake abused by people living in its WATERSHED makes the Bay truly UNRECLAIMABLE to its pristine origin. During the wet season as the headwaters of the Pasig from Napindan turns brown because of eroded clay soils and turns dirty black during the heat of summer because of human and industrial detritus, the ageing river once upon a time missed it’s golden chance to be a red river of a metroplitan valley that will cure like France its evil sickened soul. Only Andres Bonifacio saw it then, only Ninoy saw it later a century later both fell in the darkest of the night as people sleeps that of the just. In patience God waits for another France to make the Pasig the red river of action and contrition cleansing the sins of centuries.

  11. I think this belongs here:

    Duterte on SolGen Jose Calida: Kababata ko 'yan, he is an Ilokano, he is related to the Marcoses but he grew up in Davao | via @pia_gutierrez— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) September 27, 2018


  12. Micha says:

    Why did the RTC 150 judge demand that Trillanes produce the amnesty application form?

    Wasn’t Trillanes right to insist that, like applying for an NBI clearance, you actually submit the form to that agency which processes your application and that you are not required by law to retain a copy of it?

    Does it not presuppose the fact that since amnesty has already been granted, that application form had been duly accomplished?

    • Trillanes’ legal team made all those kinds of arguments but the judge was deaf to them. He just went with Calida.

      • Micha says:

        And that Calida had stolen the filled up form from Lorenzana’s department?

        There ought to be a reckoning of this perfidy and malfeasance.

        • Senator Trillanes said Calida stole his application. Calida threatened to sue Senator Trillanes for libel. The Senator said there would be a reckoning for Calida, Guevarra, and an ARP guy when Duterte was out of power if they continues the gameplaying.

          • Micha says:

            That RTC judge should have required either the DOJ or DND to produce that document instead of Senator Trillanes.

            Sick of this judicial moro-moro.

            • Yes, that was argued by his attorneys as well. Again, the persecution defies all rational sense, which I suppose is why it is called persecution. It is a goal, to jail the Senator, and the reasoning is purely fiction and lunacy in the pursuit of that goal.

        • It is suggested that the National Privacy Commission(NPC) should probe those involved in the missing documents particularly the story about Calida calling Lorenzana and sending a representative to look into the military archive. That would be tremendous if NPC really goes ahead and investigate.

          What is it with Makati RTC judges being called to the SC before the 148 decision? Is this regular in PH?

  13. Sharing this, wretchedly..

    “A Tyrant’s Lament”

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