• Enrile’s fading star

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    Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, in a privilege speech, announced he was resign in his post to redeem his honor, but he came across instead as simply bitter, even petty.

    The senator expressed belief that his son, Juan Ponce Jr. or Jack, failed in his bid because of the unfair accusations hurled against him by two of his colleagues, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano.

    He had a point there, but Jack, intentionally or otherwise, had hitched his wagon to his father’s star. As long as the star shone brightly he was fine, but once it lost its luster his fortune dimmed as well.

    The older Enrile showed his mettle, as a lawyer and as a senator, during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. No other senator could have kept the trial on track the way he did. His scholarship and his long experience in the government, including a stint as Defense minister, carried the day. He was fair to both prosecution and the defense, and so neither dared question his decisions. And when he ordered a lockdown following the attempt of the accused to leave the premises, the whole nation rose in approval.
    It was against this backdrop that Jack filed his certificate of candidacy. At that time, the country’s two leading pollsters, Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, placed him in the so-called Magic 12.

    But then Santiago blasted what she called the unequal distribution of the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. Enrile had given P1.6 million to each senator, but he allotted only P250,000 each to Santiago, the Cayetano siblings, and Antonio Trillanes IV. Then Enrile made things worse for himself by calling the money a cash gift. That begged the question. What right had he to give away public funds as gift to his favorite senators?

    Senator Panfilo Lacson came to Enrile’s defense. He accused Santiago of being “a hypocrite and crusading crook”, who diverted Senate funds to build a cockpit for her husband. The people may have believed the accusation against Santiago, but that did not exonerate Enrile. It deepened instead the perception that the Senate was a den of thieves, and that Enrile was one himself.

    Then things became really ugly. Cayetano charged that Enrile was allowing Gigi Reyes, “his chief of staff and lover,” to run the Senate president’s office. He also intimated that she was keeping the Senate hostage to her whims.

    The controversy diminished Enrile and brought down his popularity rating from a high of 73 percent in November last year, following his deft handling of the impeachment trial, to 46 percent in January, just when the political positioning was beginning to heat up. From then on it was a free-fall for Enrile—and for his son.

    But Jack could not blame his misfortune entirely on his father. He too had some explaining to do. It was at this time that some people revived the charge that he killed actor Alfie Anido, his sister’s boyfriend. He was also accused of shooting and killing another young man, Ernest Lucas Jr., at a high school party. His police bodyguard owned up to the crime, but was not prosecuted. He was merely transferred back to his mother unit.

    In the end, Jack was portrayed, fairly or unfairly, as a brat who, when his father was in power, played around with people’s lives.

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