By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
*Read behind-the-scenes stories of the Corona trial verdict day here.
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.
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.
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.