MANILA, Philippines – Rats and cockroaches? Migraine-inducing heat? No phone and TV? Senator Antonio Trillanes IV advised his colleagues jailed over the pork barrel scam to just grin and bear it.
The senator detained for 7 and a half years for rebellion charges said he experienced worse conditions in jail but he had just had to live with it.
“I believe people will remember I was literally dragged, handcuffed. We were roughed up. At some point, I received a couple of punches from [police] officers. Yes, I was already a senator but I didn’t get to whine about it when I was there. You just have to take it all in,” Trillanes said on ANC’s Headstart on Tuesday, June 24.
Watch this report below.
Trillanes responded to Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr’s request for an air cooler because of the heat in jail, and comments that there were cockroaches and rats in his room at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Before his arrest on Monday, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said he will request for a cable TV, and access to an iPad and phone. His father, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada also requested for an air-conditioner for his son, even offering to pay for it.
Trillanes said: “I believe they’ll just have to man up. They have to make up their minds if they want to fight this through, play out that role as innocent men being subjects of injustice, or they’re just playing the role of guilty men who will use every loophole in the legal system to get out of this. So they have to make up their minds.”
The senator said that when he was detained, he was prepared to live with the conditions at his detention facility.
“We dealt with the same rats before and the heat but there’s this saying, ‘If you do the crime, you do the time.’ When we rose against the past administration, no matter how morally justified that cause was, legally it still was [a crime] so we did the time.”
Revilla and Estrada surrendered to the police after the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered their arrest for plunder and graft charges. The two senators are accused of pocketing millions of pesos in kickbacks for allegedly funneling their discretionary funds known as “pork barrel” to fake non-governmental organizations.
The court has yet to decide on probable cause in the case of their co-accused and fellow opposition senator, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
Trillanes though did not criticize the special treatment given to his colleagues, but said that their case should prompt action for ordinary detainees.
“I believe we should pressure government not to level down the treatment of the 3 senators but to pressure the government to level up the treatment for the other detainees across the country because we are promoting a just and humane society and to treat detainees like dogs is not the way to go.”
He added, “We have to improve our detention facilities, construct new ones to make sure these detainees will not lose their dignity while in jail.”
‘Reflect, become better persons’
A Navy officer turned coup plotter, Trillanes was detained for rebelling against corruption in the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. While in jail, he won as senator in 2007 without campaigning. His ally, President Benigno Aquino III granted him amnesty in 2010.
Trillanes said there was no way of going around detention and it is best for his colleagues to make the experience meaningful.
“They just have to use this experience to come out as better persons in the end. They can try to reflect about life in general, what their future holds as public servants. This is a very, very good time for them to change as persons.”
The senator said Revilla had asked him for advice about life in jail.
“I advised him to establish his daily routine as quick as possible because it will hasten the whole time in detention. Once you wake up in the morning, what you do after breakfast, you have to come up with that routine and before you know it, you’re there for a couple of years already.”
Trillanes said that even after he became senator, he did not have privileges when detained in Camp Crame, and was “mixed up with the general population” or other detainees.
“We were behind bars. Phone was strictly prohibited. There was no visiting area and what we had is the tabo (water dipper) and the toilet, buhos type (bucket style).”
The senator said though that the public and his colleagues should not compare his experience with that of his fellow senators.
“I was detained under a very hostile government so the situation was different, the treatment was different. They treated me as an enemy of the state, which I was technically, so even going to court hearings, we were handcuffed. At some point, we were blindfolded. Even the crime was different.”
‘Opposition senators last to be jailed’
While other lawmakers were implicated in the scam, Trillanes believes that the 3 opposition senators will be the last to be jailed. The opposition and observers decried what they call “selective justice” of the Aquino administration to spare allies from the investigation and charges.
“I feel that the 3 would be it, for senators. Because we’ve seen the evidence and we can say that based on what we have seen, the evidence against these 3 can hold up in court as opposed to the others who may have probably been just name-dropped there so it’s very difficult to prove that,” Trillanes said.
The senator though warned against being quick to condemn the 3.
“We have due process and all senators, regardless of how we feel about the evidence presented through the media, they are still presumed innocent until proven guilty. We have to be faithful to that principle otherwise we have a lynch mob.” – Rappler.com