Trillanes in the Senate

Antonio Trillanes IV broke all rules when he ran for the Senate in 2007. Neither wealthy nor born into a political franchise, his claim to fame at that time was the unlawful takeover of the Oakwood Hotel. Wearing red armbands with the Magdalo symbol, Trillanes stood out as a rebel with a cause – the need to expose the cancer of corruption that was threatening the lives of the soldiers. Unable to compete with the more ritzy campaigns of rival candidates, Trillanes won because ordinary people would mention his name far more frequently than did the media. Moreso than any other candidate, Trillanes was a creation not of the elite establishment, but of the masses.

Trillanes won in 2007 but sadly, his Senate office remains empty up to now. His chief of staff, Atty. Reynaldo Robles, was my late father’s lawyer. From time to time, I would join Atty. Robles in visiting Sen. Sonny as I would call him, at Camp Crame where the senator is detained. We would discuss politics and his legislative agenda, and every time I’d leave him behind, I felt sad because I knew how much he wanted to be actively involved in the work and affairs of the Senate.

The iron and concrete walls that dwarf his tiny room have never prevented Senator Trillanes from contributing what he could as a legislator. Recently, I learned that Sen. Sonny filed a resolution directing the Senate to conduct an inquiry into a memorandum jointly issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) that could affect the lives of thousands of college graduates who need to take any PRC-administered board examinations next year.

In his resolution, Senator Trillanes pointed out that on May 14, 2010, the former chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Emmanuel Angeles and PRC Chair Nicolas Lapena, Jr., issued CHED PRC Memorandum Circular No. 01 which bars graduates of state universities and colleges from taking licensure examinations if the state university or college he or she graduated from did not obtain the necessary permit or authority from the Commission.

This same memorandum was reinforced by another issuance by the PRC on May 27, which effectively denies the admission of applicants for licensure examination from state universities and colleges which are not compliant with the CHED PRC’s initial memorandum, starting on January 2011.

A number of state universities and local colleges maintain that such memorandum circulars issued jointly by the CHED and PRC were not a product of exhaustive consultations. Some of them assert that given their autonomous status, they should not be compelled to undergo the same procedure as private higher educational institutions in opening courses or programs that require board examinations. Another cause for concern is the lengthy and drawn-out process for the accreditation of courses which would virtually make it impossible for permits from CHED and PRC to be issued on or before January 2011. A check with CHED as of press time showed that not one of the state colleges and universities have complied with the Memorandum Circular No. 01 while Memorandum Circular No. 2010-12 remains in effect. These circulars have not been withdrawn by the new CHED chairperson, the highly-respected Dr. Patricia Licuanan, former dean of Miriam College though there are ongoing consultations being made about it.

Caught in the middle of this debate are thousands of nursing, education, accountancy and engineering graduates, whose courses require the taking of licensure examinations. As chair of the Senate committee on civil service and government reorganization, he has scheduled a public hearing in aid of legislation to clarify the circumstances that prompted the issuance of these circulars. The hearing will take place inside the custodial premises of Camp Crame, in a little room spruced up with Monobloc chairs and a plastic table covered by a vinyl table cloth. Though far from the polished and dignified halls of the Senate, the results of these  hearings would be just as binding and official.

Sonny Trillanes has spent seven years, 3 months, and possibly a few more weeks of his life in jail. Despite the Oakwood Mutiny, eleven million voters elected him to the Senate. Just the other week, President Benigno Simeon Aquino signed an order to grant amnesty to Senator Trillanes and the rest of the Magdalo soldiers still under detention. What is left before the rebel soldier-turned-senator could take finally take his seat in the Senate, is the concurrence of both Houses of Congress. This, according to Senator Vicente Sotto III, is just a matter of time.

It would be good to finally see Trillanes walk away from his tiny room and into the brilliant sunrise of a Senate career. He has much to learn from his peers, many of who support his bid for freedom. Undoubtedly, many Filipinos will be there to cheer him on. He has a future to shape, a family to reunite with, and a nation to defend and protect as senator of the Republic. (Send comments to Visit my blog at Follow me on

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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  • Manuel B. Decena Jr.

    Good Day Mam,

    Isa po akong OFW dito sa Jeddah….gusto ko lang pong ipaabot ang mga hirap na dinaranas ng ating mga kababayan na nasa loob ng Saudi Deportation…Hirap napo ang mga bata sa loob ng deportation…Sana po mabigyan sila ng pansin ng ating Consulate dito sa Jeddah. Yung ibang lahi po like Indian, Indonesia…halos araw araw po may bumibisita sa kanila at inaayos ang mga Travel Documents nila….Tignan nyo nalang po ang mga ipinost ko sa facebook ko para makita ninyo ang kalagayan nila dito…Dhong Decena….

    We hope and pray sana makauwi napo sila….maraming salamat po at mabuhay ang mga Pilipino!!!