'In High Spirits': Trillanes family barrels through former rebel's looming arrest

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2018 07:05 PM | Updated as of Sep 08 2018 10:26 PM

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, seen here in this photo taken on September 7, 2018, has been holed up in his office at the Senate since Tuesday as he faces possible arrest after President Rodrigo Duterte voided his amnesty. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Cameras started rolling as soon as Senator Antonio Trillanes IV stepped out of his office for his daily press conference on the corridor of the Senate building's fifth floor on Saturday. 

The senator has been holed up in his office for nearly a week over reports of a looming arrest, but the man - clad in short-sleeved polo and well-ironed trousers, and wearing his signature brushed-up hair - continues to bear cool confidence, appearing that he is in control of the situation.

But he could not hide the dark circles under his eyes. 

The lawmaker, who as a Navy lieutenant led junior officers in storming into two hotels in 2003 and 2007 to protest government corruption, admitted he has been losing sleep since President Rodrigo Duterte voided his amnesty. He is now under threat of arrest. 

"I only get 4 hours of sleep," Trillanes told reporters.

He used to distract himself by planning with lawyers, meetings with supporters, and occasionally listening to music on his old iPod. But after the Senate imposed a 12-hour visiting schedule for his guests, he could only count on his immediate family and staff during the late hours - the only ones exempt from the regulation.

"Behind the cameras, we are always in high spirits, maganda 'yung mood (we're in a good mood)," Trillanes said when asked about his family spending time with him in his office.

"We're having fun, nagkukulitan kami (we joke around)," he said without giving much details about their limited activities.

His two children, Francis Seth and Thea Estelle, have only visited twice. They continue to attend their college classes on weekdays, and spend time with their father during the weekend.

'Insulating political noise'

The senator's wife Arlene, who also graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), shuttles between the lawmaker's office in Pasay City and their family home to tend to their 2 children and the head of the family, who has been sleeping on a couch in his office since Tuesday.

Arlene, a former member of the PMA corps of professors, has frequented the Senate since her husband decided to temporarily reside in his office. 

She continues to beg off from media interviews and small talk and instead opts to stand in a crowd of supporters or sit quietly in a corner of the senator's office.

"My wife has been doing a great job in insulating the kids from political noise," Trillanes said.

The children understand what is happening because they are adults, but everything in the household is fine, he said.

"The family is in high spirits. We've been through worse," said Trillanes, who had spent 7 years detained as a rebel soldier. 

"Ayoko silang ma-subject sa ganitong experience ulit but dinadala tayo ng tadhana dito so we're just praying for strength for everyone," he said. 

(I don't want to subject them through this experience again, but destiny is leading us there so we're just praying for strength for everyone.)

Trillanes has asked his siblings to bar their mother from watching television to sheathe her from news of her son's looming arrest.

"My mom is sick. She has an advanced stage of Parkinson's disease," Trillanes said.

"We're trying to insulate her from all this so hindi namin nakukuwentuhan, hindi niya mapanood 'yung TV," she said.

(We're trying to insulate her from all this so we don't tell her about it and we don't allow her to watch TV.)

The senator may be drawing strength from his family, but he said he is also aware that they also depend on him for stability.

"They can read through my reactions, my mood, my facial expressions if something is bothering me," he said.

"'Pag nakita nila ako na high spirits at parang normal, parang 'yun na 'yun. That's the assurance they need," he said.

(If they see that I'm in high spirits and everything is normal, that's it. That's the assurance they need.)

The senator said he looks forward to going home and sleeping soundly on a regular bed, but that could only happen if the Supreme Court issues a halt order against Duterte's Proclamation No. 572, which invalidated his amnesty. 

Otherwise, it's either his office couch or detention.

"Ako personally 'yung inconvenience na na-experience ng aking pamilya ay very unfortunate (For me, the inconvenience that my family is experiencing is very unfortunate)," he said.

"As a father, I don't want them to be subjected to all of this," he said.

But his family is ready should he be incarcerated for the second time. 

"They understood that when I took this task of being a public servant, public official, may mga (there are) risks involved so ito 'yun (this is it)," he said.

"I believe in God's will kaya (that's why) I confront challenges and trials like this with full conviction and strength and courage because I know at the end of this, God will be there," he said.

And with their quiet strength, his family will be there too.