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.

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#CJonTrial: Last full show at the Senate

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN News live setup outside Senate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The excitement over Day 44 of the trial deciding the fate of Chief Justice Renato Corona, as expected, spilled way past the Senate grounds.

Outside the gate, the long line of prospective watchers was up for a final effort. As before, only 40 green passes to the Session Hall would be given out.

And no ticket more, this last full show already full. Not even for actor Pen Medina, who showed up with a “Convict Corona” shirt. He took it off to comply with regulations, yet still missed the cut.

Farther off at the Senate security checkpoint beside the Manila Film Center, three news vans were parked near a barricade and a throng of anti-riot police.

This spot was the closest any groups wanting to amass in protest or support could get to the Senate.

Close to noon, nearly 50 members of a health workers’ group arrived with “Guilty!” signs. They brought out effigies of Corona, his benefactor Gloria Arroyo, and of President Aquino.

They wanted a Corona conviction, but hoped the alternative was not a Supreme Court controlled by the President. They left after 30 minutes.

Akbayan members brandish "Convict Corona" signs outside Senate during impeachment verdict (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A group of the same number, this time from Akbayan, a party allied with Aquino, later came with yellow placards that all repeated “Convict” and “Guilty”.

Unlike before, only one side came out that day. Many of those praying for an acquittal for Corona remained at the Supreme Court to watch the Senate verdict via an LCD projector.

The Akbayan assembly stayed on to monitor the votes cast by the 23 senator-judges through a radio piped into their mobile speakers.

ABS-CBN’s cameras were trained on both spots for live reactions to the moment of decision.

At ABS’s Senate OB van control, it was business as usual, yet spiced with the excitement of a final sprint.

The crews manning the facilities that broadcast the trial sessions and live reports for Channel 2, ANC, and DZMM had been at it since January. And except for infrequent session lulls, their work routines for four months have been 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., all to and from the Senate.

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