On the part of the Senate: Closing time at the 15th Congress

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN video monitor showing scenes at the Senate during Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's speech resigning the Senate Presidency. (Shot June 5, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The last stretch of regular sessions at the Philippine Congress each year are  largely unremarkable. Even their schedule is nondescript–two weekdays snuck in at the end of summer vacation. And every three years, it comes just after the winners of the incoming Congress have been proclaimed.

This routine resumption avails little for the news media attuned more to clashes, exposés and sensational investigations. But it was different when the Senate briefly returned to session on June 5, 2013.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile opened the plenary with a privilege speech blasting the critics among his colleagues, ruing over his son Jack’s failed Senate run, and finally, tendering his resignation as Senate President. He then left the session hall, no longer to return till the next Congress.

Broadcast outlets, some of whom got wind of Enrile’s apparent bombshell a day before, came early that day to set up control booths for airing the speech live.

What Enrile would say was expected to be hot copy after days of news about the impending change of the guard in the Senate once the administration-heavy lineup of winning solons took their seats in July.

Few foreknew that he would resign.

Before the session began, a Senate staff member expressed hopes that the speech would avoid controversy. It would only divert attention—and precious time—from the pile of last-minute legislative work.

The speech indeed did its work, and the session was paralyzed for the rest of the day. Yet not all of Enrile’s opponents were present to hear his attacks.

Sen. Franklin Drilon making a phone call at the Senate floor after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile walks out folllowing his resignation as Senate President (Shot June 5, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Drilon making a call after the walkout. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A TV news producer got the text and scanned it quickly, circling any references to other senators. He then told the live feed director near him whose reaction to show next: Senators Antonio Trillanes, Pia Cayetano, or Franklin Drilon. The two men, seated apart, were caught smiling during key points in the speech.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who engaged Enrile in a personal debate months back, only showed up after Enrile walked out.

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Losses and look-backs—PinoyJourn’s 2012 top posts

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Anjo solo editing PC Cateel - Shot by MelThe year 2012 was one big nostalgia trip in ways both fun and tragic.

As seen in the stories covered by this blogger, our nation dealt with death many times over, the lot of them persons of influence.

Their passing inadvertently brought us back pleasant memories of their heyday years. For one loss, we mused what might have been in the future.

2012 was also a good year for one personality, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. His role in the biggest political event of the year paved the way for many to revisit his controversial life.

But as a student and practitioner of media, the biggest commemoration of the year is the silver anniversary of the country’s longest-running primetime newscast, TV Patrol.

It’s a program I have been privileged to contribute to on a daily basis in the field. TV Patrol’s 25th year also allowed me a rare glimpse of the show’s evolving look and recent history as it was covered.

Among those historic events were calamities, which again began and ended 2012.

A little showbiz intrigue added to the visits to this blog, which jumped to the thousands per month. People came searching for Umagang Kay Ganda hosts Andrei Felix and Venus Raj, who went public with their relationship this year.

And as in 2011, a quaint book review also brought in visitors interested in a fictional Belgian detective.

But still, the big events and characters of the year—and also some scene-stealers—were what riveted PinoyJourn readers.

Again, with the fervent wish for more meaningful stories to tell, I hope for opportunities to write other pieces that go beyond behind the scenes.

A big thanks to the readers who help keep this blog running.

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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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Date with destiny

One morning in September, we waited for this man in black outside his home as he prepared to stake his claim on history. (Read: Waiting for Noynoy)

Exactly 9 months later, we watched him go up the steps of Congress and ascend to power in his mother’s footsteps.

Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, the man none dreamed would be president, today became the second person to benefit from his father’s dream of being one.

It was one of the swiftest in recent history–a tad 2 hours of quick-paced parliamentary formality after one of the country’s quickest counts and canvass.

House of representatives plenary hall the morning before President-elect Noynoy Aquino is proclaimed, June 9, 2010

The plenary hall at 8:30 a.m., as House staff started rearranging the congressmen's tables

It was the first presidential and vice presidential proclamation in the age of Web 2.0.

Much so that most eyes and ears on the country were trained on TV sets, radios, mobile phones, and computer screens with live feeds from the Batasang Pambansa.

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Strictly politics*

Orange bottles of mineral water branded with Manny Villar's name and face given in Las Pinas.

Branded mineral water bottles from your favorite candidate

Before the campaign period for the national elections, there was the pre-campaign period. Emphasis on “campaign.”

And why not? Philippine politics seems to be an eternal operation to stay in power or go higher.

Thus you find the prevalent tarps of smiling faces greeting every occasion from the fiesta to the funeral. Plus the same strain of posters with their forced acronyms and subliminal messages.

A little girl in Filipiniana attracts the camera hours before the Mar Roxas - Korina Sanchez weddingGuests arrive for the wedding of the election season in Sto. Domingo Church.

Plus these events perfectly timed for the season.

And thus we all know that this person is vying for this position before he or she even says it or files papers at the Comelec.

Only a few weeks before the filing deadline did we see prospective candidates affirm or dismiss speculations on their running.

Joseph Estrada, Jejomar Binay, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada pose for the media before they proclaim their 2010 candidacies. Joseph Estrada finally declares his 2010 wish for "the last performance of my life" in Tondo Manila

Including a former president bent to continue his unfinished business.

The ride all started with the passing of the late great Cory Aquino that changed the political destinies of some. Soon the leading was left off, the nonviable now probable. Swiftly the tides turned and the rabbits jumped fences.

I’ve often mused about how the many considerable choices for 2010 came about due to who ran and won in 2004. Potential presidents are only now coming into the fray.

Today I still can’t pick among my top four bets.

Our field operations teams met this preview of campaign 2010 by covering the proclamations live.

Seats at the Lakas-Kampi-CMD convention with its predetermined presidential bethttps://i2.wp.com/images.pinoyjourn.multiply.com/image/1/photos/44/400x400/71/Lakas-Kampi-convention-Gibo-6.jpg

One of the biggest was by the country's biggest political party, with its already-determined presidential bet.

Those minute to hour-long airings mask the early call times, ocular inspections and intensive coordination needed for a crew of ten to twenty to set up and air. Here you learn the power of anticipating programs and making connections.

And amid the hustle and bustle for Halalan 2010, we also see the twilight days of a president and her government cramming to claim history’s verdict.

Department of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes with UP economics professor Winnie Monsod after debating oil priceshttps://i0.wp.com/images.pinoyjourn.multiply.com/image/1/photos/44/400x400/86/Duque-DOH-preps-for-New-Year-2010-4.jpg

And cramming, as well, for another run of office.

It was in one such coverage that I smiled at President Arroyo and got to shake her hand–not in Malacanang, but in one of the few areas I guess she was at her proudest best.

We could not air live her second final economic update in a Makati hotel. I could only check on our reporters and on the event.

There I found a childhood friend with the Foreign Affairs Department on duty as an usher.

President Gloria Arroyo, officials and PSG walk the red carpet out of the Philippine Economic Briefing in Makati

PGMA just a few feet away.

Soon the Presidential entourage walked out of the forum hall on the red carpet. My friend and the ushers lined up to greet them. Unsure what to do, I stood beside her at the end.

As President Arroyo shook hands with the ushers, I knew she would end with me before they proceeded to the photo op area.

Somehow we were not both sure how to greet each other, I wearing a red collared shirt and jeans in a place where dark corporate attires ruled.

Our hands and gazes awkwardly, silently met, and then left off.

Telling the encounter to my workmates, one asked why I was cordial when I came from a school supposedly angry with the President.

I answered, “Wala namang personalan (It’s nothing personal).”

Much as our politics should be.

See all shots from the topsy-turvy turns in politics taken during the daily grind at this pinoyjourn Multiply album.

*Apologies, of course, to the long-running ANC public affairs show.