WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Where the Trill has gone

I’ll never make it to the Senate. I thought it best back then to address the issue, if only to put an end to it. But then, people would inevitably ask me about my recommendations for the post I did not want and would never win the way we do it. Aww. Politics is a dirty word to me, and in case my readers haven’t noticed, I have always been deliberately sparing on my comments in that arena. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion. It’s just that talking about it always leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

But I do remember seriously discussing the prospect of government service with a friend and he wanted the opinion of MLQ3’s senatoriable on which sector should be ideally placed as statesmen. I think I surprised even myself with the reply that rolled off my tongue. I said, “The military.”

On hindsight, the impulsive answer did not entirely seem ill-considered. Our soldiers are probably the most well-educated sector there is, with the government investing a lot in the education of its elements. The Philippine Military Academy where our officers trained for the service is the only remaining state university that can rightfully claim to be one. In addition, the government generously provides our soldiers opportunities for trainings and further studies in prestigious institutions both here and abroad.

At the very least, military service means you get to understand the country’s geography and its people. You get to see the peculiar needs of the communities and the kind of governance as well as institutional support systems that are in place. You also get to see the best practices and the worst practices; opportunities exploited and resources gone to waste. If there’s anybody among us who stands a better chance to really see this country for what it is, it would be someone in the service.

Then, too, there is that Roman model of soldiery that appeals as an ideal career path to many military officers. Roman generals often ended up as statesmen. Nobody in active service would probably own up to having ambitions in that direction, but we see the evidence to the model being played out. In previous years, it was not uncommon for retired generals in the Philippines to be given a new lease in public service as ambassadors, cabinet members, advisers, or administrators of government owned facilities. One even served as president.

Fast forward to today when elements from the military have found their way to the Senate. In fact, they muster enough numbers now to form the Cavaliers Club, a potentially important bloc that could tilt the balance on decisions about national concerns. While many quarters continue to be cynical about the ability of these former military men to legislate for meaningful reform in national affairs, people have time and again given Biazon, Lacson, and Honasan the mandate. So I guess the electorate agrees that some soldiers are good statesman material.

The conservatives among the military, however, believe that a soldier should remain a soldier. That means that when a soldier unwittingly finds himself in the political domain, he should politely apologize to the Chief of Staff and plead to be sent back to the barracks where he belongs.

Honasan and his protégé Trillanes, on the other hand, obviously believe that when that happens, a soldier doesn’t have to remain a soldier. Unlike Lacson and Biazon who did it the Roman way, Honasan and Trillanes were not interested to stay in the AFP long enough to become a general. Their career path showed that remaining a soldier did not interest them at all.

Like his mentor Honasan, Trillanes also did not care about the amount of damage he did to the service in his pursuit of his personal agenda. But even before he ran for senator, the gloves had long come off. Trillanes had no qualms about defacing the image of the AFP by bringing damaging organizational concerns to the public domain and showing up some AFP elements to be gullible. I believe the exact word used was “naïve”. Suffer the pobre espirito when speaks the devil with the forked tongue.

Almost four years after the Oakwood mutiny, Trillanes has earned the ire of his former recruits from among his mistahs. Now that information on the planning for the Oakwood mutiny has come to light, some have come to the inescapable conclusion that Trillanes had exploited their friendship and betrayed their trust.

By genuinely believing that they were then fighting for reform, Trillanes’ mates cooperated for Oakwood by gravitating to address the tactical and recruitment requirements, because they were made to believe that was where they were good at. In a similar vein, they left the matter of logistics to the man whom they were led to believe knew better than most about it. Little did they suspect that for this man the anatomy of corruption never stayed merely on the intellectual level.

I perceived Trillanes to be a loose cannon the minute he stepped into the limelight on 27 July 2003 to speak for the Magdalo. Hey lookee – they got a poster boy to play up to the TV audience. His audio was kinda off so he did not pull it off very well back then. His representation for the Magdalo then failed to muster popular support for the Oakwood exercise and the cowardly political alliances they forged deemed it best to stay away, leaving the soldiers holding the bag.

But you’ve got to hand it to the boy: he learns fast. Today, he plays the media like a pro. Logistics considerations aside, his campaign strategy was a sociological phenomenon in the way it had tapped the Filipinos’ ascendant trait for bahala na decision-making at crunch time: Better the devil you don’t know than the devil you do.

Heck, even the 36,000-odd betrayed AFP elements who voted in the special elections put Trillanes in the magic 12. Gullible fools. Or, as the Trill would say, naïve.

It does not surprise me that on the eve of his proclamation as senator, he has already wriggled out of the prospect of servitude to Erap to be the instrument of PGMA’s doom. Child’s play. The Genuine Opposition gave the boy a free ride. What’s the adjective that would apply here?

By setting the stage to inhibit himself from future PGMA impeachment procedures, Trillanes is now free to pursue his own agenda in the august halls of the Senate. Was that his intention all along? Or is he like Baron Harkonnen who gets his thrills from thwarting everyone? Where the Trill has gone, the road is littered with friendship, alliance and trust betrayed.

So it’s too premature for the Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Pilipinas to crow in triumph for putting their candidate in the Senate. Judas’ time is coming.

Where the Trill had been, former friends and allies lie by the roadside, footprints all over their backside. Remarkably, the thirty pieces of silver does not change hands.

They only multiply. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)