Juan Ponce Enrile and history

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

*Read behind-the-scenes stories of the Corona trial verdict day here.

Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer banging the gavel on the guilty verdict against Renato Corona.(ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

Click to watch highlights of the Corona trial verdict. (ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

He was not a witness, but many dubbed him the “star” of the trial that ultimately removed Chief Justice Renato Corona from office.

Many followers of the impeachment proceedings found a renewed appreciation for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile: firm, resolute, and–at 88 years old–mentally agile in his role as presiding judge of the court.

He insisted on the judges’ impartiality in dealing with the trial panels, hearing testimonies, and accepting evidence. He strove to maintain order when senator-judges raised hell or participants appeared to act with disrespect.

While he cast the final vote convicting Corona, his justification speech equally scored weaknesses in the prosecution and defense. More so, he bared the pros and cons resulting from either decision his court would make.

Enrile pounding his gavel would become one of the trial’s enduring images.

With high trust ratings, it appeared he was the one who gained the most goodwill and political capital from the trial–even compared to President Aquino, who had a big stake in the impeachment drive.

But JPE, also known more recently as Manong Johnny, was not always publicly seen as this lamp of wisdom and direction.

Political phoenix

Few politicians are widely recognized by their acronyms as JPE. A lawyer, bureaucrat, and lawmaker, the only thing missing was had he become President of the Philippines. And for a time, Enrile was in a position to possibly become that.

Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel V. Ramos withdrawing support for Marcos in 1986. (Footage courtesy of ABS-CBN's EDSA 25 documentary)

Enrile and Ramos in 1986. (Courtesy of ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs’ EDSA 25 documentary)

School history books written in the recent 20 years have cited him as one of the sparks that ignited the bloodless first EDSA revolt.

And it is to his and then Gen. Fidel V. Ramos’ withdrawal of support for Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 that some align his presiding of the Corona impeachment trial—both preludes to the downfall of public figures.

The high points of JPE’s public life are a string of reviled decisions and redemptive actions. Falls and rises.

Political phoenixes are no stranger to the Philippines. But Enrile’s career spanning half a century is perhaps the biggest testament to this.

For before he was identified with People Power, Enrile was associated with the dictatorship it ended.

He was branded the chief architect of Marcos’s Martial Law. He was Defense chief when a supposed ambush on his convoy and a succession of public disturbances led to the declaration of Proclamation 1081 on September 21, 1972.

Juan Ponce Enrile as Philippine Defense minister in the 1970s (Footage courtesy of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs' EDSA 25 documentary)

Enrile as Defense minister, circa 1972. (Courtesy of ABS-CBN’s EDSA 25 docu)

Enrile stayed at that post for 14 more years, and was reportedly seen as a possible successor to Marcos—the “most politically astute of the next in line,” according to Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew.

Then the assassination of Ninoy Aquino and the snap elections followed.

Enrile cast his lot at Camp Crame, and the rest was history.

Pres. Corazon Aquino again gave him the Defense department, but Enrile soon fell from favor with the administration amid many coup attempts against Aquino. He was suspected of inability to control the military opposition.

Senate moments

His next career phase–and probably the one more familiar to younger readers–would always be attached to the word “Senator”.

During his four terms since winning a seat in 1987, JPE was there at important points in the Senate’s recent history.

He voted to end the stay of permanent United States military bases in the Philippines.

“Its basic assumption is an insult to our race,” he said of the RP-US Bases Treaty in his explanatory speech.

“I cannot live with a treaty that assumes that without 8,000 servicemen and some passing warships, we shall fall flat on our faces. I cannot believe that the vitality of this country will be extinguished when the last bar girl in Olongapo turns off the light in the last cabaret.”

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile voting against the RP-US Bases Treaty in 1991 (ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

Enrile voting against the RP-US Bases Treaty in 1991. (ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

Ten years later, however, he would be lumped with the “Onsehan sa Senado,” 11 solons who prevented the opening of a second envelope of evidence in Pres. Joseph Estrada’s impeachment trial—the country’s first.

“There are people in this chamber who do not know the meaning of truth,” Enrile said then.

Protesters at EDSA called the 11 senators lapdogs and paid confederates of Estrada, who was eventually toppled.

Running for reelection three months later, Enrile was tagged in an alleged coup plot against Pres. Gloria Arroyo, linked to violent protests outside Malacañang, and arrested. He lost his bid.

It took a campaign anchored on a catchy jingle and an advocacy close to voters’ stomachs (electricity costs) to bring Enrile back three years later.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile votes No to opening the second envelope of the Estrada impeachment trial. (ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

Enrile at the Estrada impeachment trial, 2001. (ABS-CBN / TV Patrol footage)

Role to be played

“I, too, have been judged, often unfairly and harshly,” he said as he gave his verdict on Corona. “But I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God.”

In a later interview on ANC, JPE said that one must nonetheless take those ups and downs: “I never got bothered by the opinion of others. I know myself. I know what I’ve done… We play roles in this life, roles that we do not relish and do not expect.”

The lessons of those past upheavals somehow influenced his conduct of the impeachment trial.

The 2001 Estrada trial was never finished after an unaddressed walkout of the prosecutors. So when Chief Justice Corona left the Session hall abruptly without a by-your-leave, Enrile immediately ordered closed all gates of the Senate.

After the verdict, a number alluded to his 2010 campaign ad saying Manong Johnny made them happy.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile with the Senate media (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

JPE with the Senate press. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A week later, Enrile’s fellow senators issued a resolution lauding his leadership during the trial.   Reporters found him in high spirits the next day and asked why.

“Because you’re happy,” he said in Tag-lish. “You know, I’m always happy. If I become unhappy at this stage in my life, maybe God might say, enough.”

Many think the judgment has been passed on Enrile’s legacy as a Senator or even as a luminary of politics, but he said he has never thought about it.

“I think that there is a strong power moving in this world that really directs events for each one of us to play a part,” he told Karen Davila on ANC.

“Given that notion, I would leave it to the people to judge me because different people have different impressions about you, about me, about others so let it be.”

Not to mention Enrile’s term is only halfway through.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile with Karen Davila on ABS-CBN News Channel Headstart (Courtesy ANC)

Watch JPE’s full interview with Karen Davila here. (Courtesy ANC)

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21 comments on “Juan Ponce Enrile and history

  1. Oops! Not so fast! Hold your horses! Wait a minute! Cool down! Lets see if manong is not just us taking for a ride. presiding is one thing, but patriotism is another thing. He may be sharp for his age, good in law, fair judge, but it doesnt mean that hes our messaiah, our saviour of sort and is clean. And one way to found out? TELL HIS NAMESAKE SON, JUAN PONCE ENRILE JR. TO STOP FOOLING THE PEOPLE AND QUIT RUNNING FOR THE SENATE IN GUISE OF HIM. THEN, MANONG JOHNNY WILL BE MY ULTIMATE ROCK STAR OF ALL TIME. we know very well that jackie enrile placing fourth now in survey is not because he has achievements.. And Manong Johnny knows that his son places fourth is because PEOPLE THOUGHT IS WAS HIM WHO IS RUNNING, THUS SOME SORT OF TAKING ADVANTAGE AND FOOLING THE PEOPLE. So if he comes out and declare that it is not him who is actually running because his term will expire 2016 pa, or discourage his son to quit, thats the time we praise him. Otherwise, pinasakay lang tayo lahat at hindi sya totoong rock star ng bayan katulad ng inaakala natin. Afterall, he is against in official signing bank waivers. Im not saying at least 40%ang commission sa pork barrel each year notwithstanding lobby money and rampant ang smuggling sa Port Irene. Do the math on my thought….

    • Pare nasa mga botante na yan kung iboboto nila si Jackie or hindi. Si Lito Lapid nga ibinoto rin sa padalwang termino kahit alam ng lahat na di siya magaling na mambabatas. In fact, plus factor ni Jackie yung family name just like Estradas & etc…. BTW I am not interested to politics pero ganyan sa Pinas ang takbo.

      • Hey mr. Bees alam mo pala ang takbo ng politic sa Pinas why complain anong problem , Pasok ka rin para Samahan mo sila sa pakorakot ng Bangko? Lito before
        Is in movie industry pero try niya I bang line pumatok kaya di mo Siya masisi Tao tan-g-a huag Lang pikon politico is very dangerous but you will become rich if you
        Know the technique ? Di ba ? Ganyan Lang ang buhay weather weather Lang ika nga ni kuya Kim ?!?!

  2. To JPE nabasa ko ang detail news about your performance from Marcos to present but still alanganin ang paniwala ko kong ikaw ay Makatao o balingbing , politics is very dangerous to people who pretend they know every thing at kong panig sa good
    Governance . 35 years out of the country only now I wrote a letter to politician whom
    I should say it is a sign for me to voice my feeling sadness and crying emotion how I feel during the martial laws and deep regrets because I ate one meal a day only rice
    And it is a sand rice , very sad and always sad and never forget what martial laws has done to me and my families and how I hated the Marcos’s family for living in good and the people live in poverty. I will take this for therest of my life no regret.
    I am now very much happy for what I fulfill, this country where I am has given me to survive ,live happy and convenient ?

  3. I have doubt if JPE is for the people or just for himself , he is still on the Marcos’s
    Clan and nothing change , come on be a man talking like a man and be frank to the public people of the Philippines . Only now that I feel little happy when I saw the Phil’s. Has very big improvement and changes but not fully satisfied because too much dog around pinoy who are sucker like a leeches more and more if he don’t look his back . One Marcos is on the senate watch for that men ,” they say father like son ” this is true on my observation and reading politic on my IPad . Sabi nga
    Bato bato sa langit ang tamaan huag megalit ?

    • Sala naman pangintindi mo Manang. Basahin mo ulit sinabi ko tapos intindihin mo kung hindi mo magets magtanong ka wag kang tanga-tanga!!! FYI hindi si Kim ang pasimula ng linya na yan mag research ka muna bago ka magmagaling-magalingan.

  4. Is there anymore people in the Pinas to batikos ang kanilang Gawain sa bansa
    Mayabang sa porma ? He he he ? Wala namang abilidad sa pag-Gawa ng good
    Resulotion sa pagbuti ng bansa , si Pinoy okey yan huag Lang makikinig sa mga
    Kulig-lig sa paligid niya but listen to his heart beat . Very good na ang Pinas not
    Like 25 years ago ay Jesus Maria , Marcos down to earth and curse ko sa family ?

      • Walang alam sa politic Baka 10 years old pa Lang Siya at sayang Lang ang utak ko sa pag la had ng katotohanan tungkol sa politico sa pinas ,before and after martial law Bashing ninyo ang sa got niya sa mga tanong ko nakakatuyo ng blood. Ha! Ha!

  5. Mr bees bato bato sa langit ang tamaan huag angry ? Si mr . Kim ay weather man ng ABS cbN kaya nasabi ko ? Engot ? Ang politic sa pinas ay para magpayaman
    At magpa tabloid sa name at makilala sila ? Get mo lolo ?

    • “Hey mr. Bees alam mo pala ang takbo ng politic sa Pinas why complain anong problem , Pasok ka rin para Samahan mo sila sa pakorakot ng Bangko?” Parang gurang ang may linya nito. Basahin mo ulit sinabi ko ha para maintindihan mo. Ano kaya gagawin mo or ng pamilya sa administration ni Bong bong Marcos kapag naging presidente?! Ikaw nga itong problemado at reklamo ng reklamo tapos sa akin mo babato sa langit?! LMFAO! Hoy FYI dalawang beses ako bumoto ng Aquino bilang pangulo ng bansa, pwes anong nangyari sa Pinas nung panahon ng ina?! Aba kapag KKK na iyan ay hindi binigyan ng pansin ni PNOY ay baka hindi na tuwid na daan ang hanap niya kundi haliparot!

  6. Hey Mr Bees tatakbo ako sa good health at huag kang pikon di ka yata marunong
    Understand ng salita at saka wala ako sa Pinas NASA bans ang Malaya at full
    Of money I can work hard and I can buy what I want and even I can eat good delicacies food good for maintaining brain and body get mo ?l
    Panahon ng Ina ni Pinoy ay iba , bata pa sila ! At Marcos familly grabe ng sila ang
    Omupo martial law ? Tanong ko ikaw ba may isip na noong martial law 25 years ago?

    • I’m happy that JPE did not have a chance to become a President otherwise he could have become more worst than Marcos as a dictator. It was his ambition to become one thats the reason he went against his boss Marcos. In fact he lead or he is behind the unsuccessful coup of Cory Aquino which P Noy almost killed in that coup attempt with the big help of his boy Gringo Honasan. Now JPE is trying to make up and washing his hands to show to the people that he is becoming to be a rock star. I agree with Aurora Pascua’s comment on June 10 , to watch that guy Bongbong Marcos. He acts , talks, and thinks like his father so watch this guy. The Filipino people easily forgets why they have this bad seed give a change to germinate.

      • Mr.Rex Garcia welcome , I appreciate your idea on the ongoing politic to our country
        I like your good and wide knowledge of politic to our country, I feel more today secure and happy ,clear enough to see the improvement of our country .they say good governance is very much successful as far as I read the news on foreign and
        Domestic, I don’t trash Enrily and the family Marcos’s at all I have gone true all those dilemma of brutality and inhuman to every Filipino which I think will come back if we
        Will not careful to vote for a good governance person to protect the generation to come.Enrily, Marcoses, Ramos, will have to be deleted to the public for good and forever they are the root of Satan and Demon ?

  7. Pingback: Juan Ponce Enrile and history | Global Balita

  8. JPE is behind all of those Pony Quiapo bombing and ambush to make it look justified for his boss Marcos to declare a Martial Law. JPE is known to be the Architect of the Martial Law His ambition is to become a president thats the reason he and Fidel Ramos turn against Marcos to become the next president after Cory Aquino. He is behind the coupe attempt to get rid Cory Aquino with the help of his boy Gringo Honasan. Thanks God that He did not give him a chance to become a Philippine president just a Senate President. I hope this would not also happen to Bongbong Marcos. We do not want another nightmare tyrany history to repeat itself.

  9. Every Filipino people especially the poor are well not train to vote, just show the monies they will vote ,but they never think of tomorrows future and their futures .Thanks to the OFW Filipinos who sacrifices for their life’s ,by sending the monies to their families and spending ,they help the Philippine government raise the tandem to survive in good health and building a good relationship to every one. Long Live
    The Philippines for Good and forever Good. Amen !

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