Photographs from ABS-CBN News
Culture Spotlight

Endgame: here are the separate legacies of the four Philippine senators on their way out

As election day nears, and their days as senator come to a close, we look at four lawmakers and ask what they’ve done and where they’re going.
ANCX Staff | Apr 24 2019

Antonio Trillanes

He is probably one of, if not the most, dramatic and controversial personalities in Senate history. But his being colorful and sensational isn’t exactly all Trillanes’s doing. He got a little help from the “powers that be” averse to his critical and uncompromising stance. He has displayed the courage of his convictions. Unlike other senators who managed to evade jail time for mounting several attempts to unseat the government, Trillanes went behind bars, even winning his first senate seat there.

Based on records, he is also one of the most productive senators, with a total of 86 national bills passed into law, a lot of them directly benefiting military personnel. Some of his important bills include those that increase subsistence allowance of soldiers, the Salary Standardization Law, and the New AFP Modernization Law. Through these bills, our soldiers now have better combat boots and equipment.

Photograph by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Trillanes produced 29 laws for each term, one of which was spent in detention inside a military camp. There, he was penalized for rebellion against then President Gloria Arroyo. His group Magdalo accused her of corruption. He ran for a senate seat and won in 2007, but was only able to join his colleagues in the senate halls in 2010 after he was pardoned by President Noynoy Aquino. However, President Duterte revoked the Aquino pardon saying the senator had no proof he applied for amnesty.

Trillanes has accused the current president of corruption and having hidden wealth. He is also a hard critic of the current administration’s war on drugs, and even accused some members of the First Family as being involved in its trade. The administration recently revived rebellion and coup charges against the senator.

 

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Throughout his stint as lawmaker, the 47-year-old initiated investigations on politicians he perceived to be crooks—even toughies like Juan Ponce Enrile. But he says it is the interpellations and debates on his proposed bills that he enjoyed the most. Reporters covering the Senator like his military demeanor, and his straightforward answers to sensitive questions.

The Trillanes style of addressing national issues, although sometimes unpopular, will definitely leave a vacuum in the hallowed halls of the Senate. While some of his political tirades are ill-prepared and oftentimes times half-baked, many concede he alone has the ability to look his opponent in the eye and expose his or her weaknesses and alleged abuse of power. “I am a nationalist in the sense that I strive to promote and protect our national interest and our right to self-determination,” he says. “As to being a patriot, I believe that it is every Filipino's duty to be so. Specifically, to be ready to stand up and fight for the good of our country.’’

As a former navy officer, Trillanes knows what a soldier has to endure to do their duty. During the Arroyo administration, he and his Magdalo compatriots said they would continue to fight even from behind bars, and even if all they had left was a dinner fork.

He is unfazed with the difficulties thrown his way, and he believes his biggest contribution to the Senate is helping to uphold its independence. His strong presence and controversial convictions will be missed mostly by allies who depend on him to be at the front of a legislative and political squabble.

This June, his third term as senator will end. He plans to become a teacher and, at the same time, focus on his anti-corruption advocacy. He will lose his legislative immunity once he is out of office, which includes the physical security provided to public officials. For others, having powerful enemies and at the same time losing the privilege and perks of a state official could be worrisome. But the soon-to-be former senator, is not worried. “I do not fear them, I am a soldier, I was trained to protect myself,” he declares. – Nancy Carvajal

 

Loren Legarda

A broadcaster-turned-politician, Legarda has been in the Senate for 21 years. She’s known for being a green development advocate, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, and initiating measures for quality education and livelihood opportunities.

She first served the Senate in 1998 and became the running mate of presidential candidate of Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 elections. She and FPJ lost that election and she returned to the Senate in 2007. With over two decades of experience as senator, Legarda is known to have authored and co-authored several legislative pieces like the Expanded Senior Citizens Act (RA 9994), Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act (RA 9709), the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Act (RA 9711), and the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (RA 10533), among others.

Photograph by Joseph Vidal, Senate Prib

As one of the few women in the Senate, she also made laws protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of women, as well as the youth. Her legislative efforts resulted in the passage of the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and its expanded version, Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Anti-Child Labor Law, and the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Legarda has spearheaded the enactment of laws on environmental governance such as the Clean Air Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Environmental Awareness Education Act, Climate Change Act, and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. In 2008, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) appointed her as its Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaption for Asia and the Pacific during the 3rd Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

She founded Luntiang Pilipinas (Green Philippines), a greening program which has planted two million trees in more than 500 hectares across the Philippines. She received several awards for her contribution in protecting the environment such as the 2013 Distinguished Alumna for Environmental Protection and Climate Change Adaptation from UP.

Currently, Legarda chairs the Senate committees on finance and foreign relations. In the upcoming election, she is eyeing the congressional seat in the lone district of Antique, under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

 

Gringo Honasan

Honasan is one of the leading characters of the EDSA People Power Revolution. During Martial Law, he set up the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) that recruited soldiers to rebel against the late former President Ferdinand Marcos. He was also the aide-de-camp of then-defense minister and now senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile.

As a senator, Honasan’s main advocacies aside from military welfare include environmental and agrarian reform. He is principal author and co-author of the Clean Air Act of 1999, Clean Water Act, the National Security Policy, Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2009, the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms Law (CARPER). Sen. Honasan sponsored the POGI bill or People’s Ownership of Government Information Act of 2012 also known as the Freedom of Information Act.

Photograph from ABS-CBN News

In 2006, the senator was charged for rebellion for supposedly leading the Oakwood mutiny in 2003 and the 2006 Marine standoff against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. The charges against him were dismissed in 2007, months after winning the May polls.

Before retiring as a senator, Honasan became the running mate of former Vice President Jejomar Binay, standard-bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) for the 2016 national elections.

On November 20, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte formally nominated Honasan as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary. This is yet to be approved by Commission on Appointments (CA). If appointed, he will be in charge of shepherding the process of setting up the country's third telecommunications company.

The 71-year-old senator is currently Chairperson of the Senate Committees on National Defense and Security, and on Peace Unification, and Reconciliation.

"I was just an ordinary soldier thrust into extraordinary circumstances and during those moments I've responded by showing through actions my love for God, country, and family—that is my legacy,” he once said when asked how he wanted to be remembered.

 

Chiz Escudero

As a senator, Escudero, who became a member of the senate in 20017, prioritized helping the Filipino workers by passing a law to gain tax exemption and additional exemptions. This law is now known as the RA 9504 or the Tax Exemption for Minimum Wage Earners and Increased Tax Exemptions. He also authored a bill to increase the maximum insurance coverage to P500,000 for bank deposits (RA 9576). Some of the notable laws/bills that he authored or co-authored are: the Anti-Vagrancy Law (RA 10158), Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act (RA 10353), and the Anti-Torture Act (RA 9745)

Photograph from ABS-CBN News

He also headed the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Joint Oversight Committee on Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Clean Air Act and Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in 2007. The senator has earned several awards and distinctions including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines in 2000 and 2005, and the Young Global Leader of 2008 from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

In 2015, Chiz got the church annulment of his first marriage and married actress Heart Evangelista. A year after the wedding, the senator became the running mate of FPJ’s daughter, Sen. Grace Poe, in the 2016 polls. Escudero is the current chairman of the committees on banks, financial institutions, and currencies, and on education, arts, and culture. He is running for Sorsogon governor in the May polls.