The seesaw life of Juan Ponce Enrile

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2015 - 10:00am

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile has most definitely had a colorful past and political career. Many still remember him from 1970 when he was appointed Secretary of the Department of National Defense as a protégé of former President Ferdinand Marcos. He was appointed Defense Chief in 1972 and the alleged attack on his car was one of the justifications (under terrorism) that Marcos declared Martial Law. During this time, Enrile became the Defense Minister and presided over the Executive Committee and the National Security Council making him a clear architect of Marcos’ martial rule that killed democracy and plunged the country back into the dark ages of fear and murder.

However, by the 1980s Marcos began to bypass Enrile’s authority and soon started removing those with close ties to him that were in power. So, after opposition leader Senator Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983, Enrile began to cut ties as well with Marcos’ dictatorship and aligned himself with Gen. Fidel V. Ramos and those who would launch a coup d’état against the former dictator and incite the people to march against him during the People Power Revolution. During this time he revealed the details of the public deception he had perpetuated while serving the Marcos government including faking the alleged attack on his vehicle that provided Marcos with the justification for martial law.

One would think that with the revelation of all of his past deeds, it would be the end of Enrile in politics. However, such was not the case. Because he flip flopped on Marcos early enough to be known as one of those who helped depose the dictator, Enrile served under former president Cory Aquino as Secretary of National Defense. However, their thoughts on dealing with security issues differed so greatly that this was not to last and he was forced to resign.

At this point you would definitely think that his political ambitions would be over. But again, such was not the case. I have to admit, I am impressed by his ability to keep coming back despite adversity as well as his ability to revive his political career and continuously dodge bullets. While his position in the Senate and Congress was rocky at best during the years that followed Cory’s term, he somehow managed to stay on the political stage, first as a Senator, then as a Congressman, and then back as a Senator again.

It really is quite remarkable considering everything that the public already knew about his past. But as Filipinos have proven time and time again, the memory of the masses is short and we tend to gloss over the bad and remember the good. After Enrile’s exposé of the Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA) and the Supreme Court ruling granting refunds on electric bills, the people responded positively to him and elected him to Senate for three non consecutive terms where he even served as Senate President.

After all that he had been through, to finally get back in the public’s good graces and trust, you would think that he would finally toe the line, but it was not to be. While he was more careful, Enrile still had many questionable actions while in power. He deftly maneuvered the prosecution and removal of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and found himself feuding with several Senators, such as Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Senator Antonio Trillanes just to name a few, due to differing opinions and proposed bills.

But, despite getting back in the political saddle, just as before, Enrile could not outrun his deeds forever. His woes began in 2013 when he was accused of giving cash Christmas gifts amounting to almost P1.6 million to Senators who sided with him. The money came from the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds and the people were outraged to hear about these funds being given out like they were presents for the taking while the government’s constituents starved. While Enrile once again managed to dodge this bullet, he would be hit with another misappropriation of funds scandal later in the same year when the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam would break. This time, Enrile, along with colleagues Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla would be incarcerated for plunder, with Enrile having allegedly received over P170 million in kickback funds.

It seemed as if Enrile’s past had finally caught up with him, but just when you thought it was over, he’s out on bail due to “humanitarian reasons” based on his age and his health. There are many appalled by this, but there are also many who are not surprised. Former Senator JPE is like a chameleon, an animal that changes colors to distract his enemies whenever the need arises. Despite his ups and his downs, he always somehow manages to make an escape.

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With elections fast approaching, it’s high time that Comelec and Smartmatic Total Information Management Corp. (Smartmatic-TIM) finally signed the contract for the lease of 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines for the 2016 polls. This is the first step in getting the voting machines ready and running in time for the elections next year and is to be followed by another contract for the second batch of 70,977 OMR machines. Comelec has said this contract will mirror the first so negotiations should not be that difficult or lengthy.

I think it’s important that we get all the election facilities running and ready as early as possible. This gives Comelec enough time to prepare and educate the people on proper voting procedures, as well as get everything into place ahead of time. After all, if we wait until the last minute (as we are prone to do), Comelec won’t have time to address any problems that may arise, which can cause problems and elections issues.

We already know that any delays can be used as a means of complaining by non-winning parties during elections and it’s best to head those off at the pass. We have to be ready with time to spare if we want a transparent and smooth election in 2016.

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