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The Enrile Enigma

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JUAN PONCE Enrile, the most in(famous) martial law enabler during the Marcos regime, has just recently celebrated his 97th birthday. He’s one of few Filipino celebrities who are marking their birth hood on Valentine’s Day. The other is Kris Aquino. Their life stories put astrologers’ credibility on the line.

Enrile is one of few living remnants of a modern dictatorship which was enabled by the Philippines’ arguably ‘best and brightest’ of their generation. The other is Estelito Mendoza, the mention of his name in litigations where he is the opposing lawyer, intimidates even the best of them that Shakespeare, in a play, wanted to be at the end of a litigicidal intention.

It’s not his longevity that amazes people about Enrile to this day. It’s his non-biodegrability, not just physicaly but intellectually. His long life is rumored to be a result of some modern medical intervention, among others. The others, or part of the others, is of the amorous nature which, at one time, his beauteous wife revealed in a TV talk show. It shocked some, but didn’t surprise them, considering what politics and power do.

On the whole, it can be said that Enrile has always managed to put himself, rightly or wrongly, on the side of history.  He was a Machiavellian practitioner – still is – and probably will not admit it. The end justifies the means, which the Marcos martial rule was all about. No ifs nor buts about its morality, legality and Constitutionality stood on their heads.

In that sense, his daughter Katrina was correct: he was not a perfect and a sinner like everyone else. Except that, to this day, Enrile hasn’t really fessed up about his sins to the people. His memoir was, partly, a revisionism, a convenient one. In a word, a lie. He once admitted he stage managed his own ambush, then recanted it.  

In mid-80s,  Enrile was falling out of grace of his patron in the autumn of the dictator and, were it not for the Edsa People Power, would have suffered a disgraceful fate, like that of Machiavelli when Lorenzo of Medici took over, in the hands of the dictator and his henchmen. A timely call by the late Cardinal Sin and Butch Aquino saved his and then Gen. Fidel V. Ramos’  skin. At one time after that, Enrile was reported to have his own transformation not unlike that of Paul on the road to Damascus. His, however, was short-lived, the typical Filipino ningas cogon.  In Cory Aquino’s time, he was charged with rebellion complex, but was later acquitted, both by his legal skills and, no doubt,by his pervasive clout in the judiciary.

These were the same legal skills and remaining clout that had won him a pardon of sorts on the basis of his age while others, who were not so lucky as he was,were convicted over the pork barrel scam. Enrile’s own chief of staff continues to languish in jail to this day over the issue. And they say she was a fall guy.

Is he a good man, as his daughter portrays him?

Perhaps. I have a little intimation about that.

Once, the son of the late Ninoy Aquino’s chief security officer approached me about a family problem. His father hadn’t been seen nor his whereabouts known for a long time, maybe months or even years. His father was arrested by military men and detained in a military facility.

We were both working in a company owned by coconut farmers of which Enrile was the chairman. I suggested we make a request to him through the company president, then Maria Clara LobregatLobregat instructed us to write a letter which she would personally deliver to Enrile.

In a few days, my friend got an advice, either from Enrile’s office or from the military, that his father was placed in a safe house somewhere in Quezon City. His father was later released to them and later on saw Aquino’s wife become president.  He paid her a visitonce in Malacanang at Arlegui which turned out sadly as  an uneventful, forgettable encounter. But that’s another story.

In another incident, I was asked by a publishing company to travel to Bangkok to do an interview of a diplomat. And I need a visa  pronto. Someone told me to go the law office of Enrile in Ayala because it was an honorary Thailand embassy on account of his late father’s honorary stature with the Thailand government.

After a brief conversation with an associate lawyer (I thought he was the husband of Armida Siguion Reyna) in his office, I was given a visa. During that conversation, he told me how, at one time, an employee approached Enrile for some loan because of a financial problem.  Enrile gave, not lent, him the money, instead. Of course, the money was handed over after a short exhortation.

Enrile’s life story hasn’t been fully written yet. The truth about some of it may still be revised. And one of the important things he can tell the Filipinos is the real story about the Aquino assassination that remains a tightly held mystery.  It’s inconceivable that Enrile didn’t know about it, even on a postmortem basis.

That will be the day when Enrile will, once and for all, finally validate his daughter’s benign (no pun there) view of him. That, too, will be the day when Kris will find it an honor to share a birthdate with his father’s erstwhile jailer. It will be a huge catharsis for a nation that continues to wrestle with the tragic mystery that, one way or the other, for better or for good, has shaped its future.  Astrologers can also rearrange  theloose ends of their pigeon holes. I have found out, rued a writer,” that a criminal and a saint, were born on the same date.

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