J.P. Enrile was a gigantic figure in Philippine history. Some thought he could have been a good president
of our country. The bastard son of a Spanish-Filipino member of the gentry, the kind of Filipino many of the first round of leaders of Philippine society and government were made of under US rule (like Manuel L. Quezon), Enrile became an outstanding lawyer. When the properly elected President Marcos formed his first-term Cabinet in 1965, Enrile (who lawyered for the topmost corporations including those of the Ayalas and the Sorianos) was one of the great hopes, along with Marcos himself, to make the Philippines “great again.”
In the final year of the 1st Marcos presidency, he ran for senator under the administration Nacionalista Party—and lost. In the 2nd elected Marcos term, Enrile was again one of the topmost Cabinet members and shared with Marcos (and others including, Imelda, Blas Ople, Jaime Laya, Gerardo Sicat, Vicente Paterno, Roberto Ongpin, etc.) the reins of government as a Cabinet member.
He was one of the architects of Martial Law. It was an effort to both allow the Marcos band of politicians and technocrats to continue ruling our country so that structural reforms could be made and to allow the Marcoses and his cronies to dominate the economy and replace the existing oligarchy (led by the Lopezes).
JP Enrile was one of the “better” martial law Cabinet members. He arranged a good post-Marcos future for himself by becoming the civilian politician-powerholder closest to the police and military outside the formal AFP brass (such as Marcos’ military right-hand man Fabian Ver).
In the fight for deliverance from the martial law regime, JP Enrile–from being a villain as a Marcos man and martial law ministers–became a hero because he sided with the people and initiated the Edsa People Power revolt. He got the military and police’s second formal command head, Fidel V. Ramos, to join him in the military mutiny to end the Marcos regime. Before Enrile and Ramos rebelled, however, the Secretary of Public Information Francisco Tatad had already left the Marcos camp and with a few journalists boldly wrote every other day columns for Business Day. These columns, like those of today’s Tiglao and Makabenta in The Manila Times, exposed the rot in the Marcos administration.
With Marcos removed, JP Enrile was again an admired national leader. He became a sharer in running the government under President Cory Aquino–as defense minister. But he made himself a nuisance and a traitor-figure, by being the spiritual leader of the military Coup D’etat Launchers seeking to remove Cory, who had restored electoral democracy, and to place the Philippines under military rule or a junta with Enrile and Cardinal Jaime Sin in it.
Subsequent events found Enrile and the coup plotters under arrest and tried but they were soon pardoned.
Before long, he was again forgiven by and large by the people–but not the so-called Yellow Army of Cory Aquino loyalists.
His rehabilitation was confirmed by his victory in senatorial elections. Soon he was seen, again, as one of country’s astute politicians and legal experts. He became Senate President, while being one of the leaders of a coalition of parties that was viewed as “the opposition” during the Macapagal-Arroyo presidency and then of the Benigno S. Aquino presidency.
In the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, JP Enrile as Senate President and therefore presiding judge of the upper chamber constitutionally functioning as an impeachment court was greatly admired for being just and fair to both the pro-conviction and the pro-acquittal sides. Little did the public know what was later revealed by Enrile’s own political ally in a privileged speech, Senator Jinggoy Estrada—that in fact the senator-judges had been bribed by President Aquino to deliver a guilty verdict against Chief Justice Corona.
Then came the revelations of PDAF/pork barrel scam whistle-blowers that JP Enrile was among the largest beneficiaries of the scam. The Ombudsman filed plunder charges against him and Senators Estrada and Bong Revilla with the Sandiganbayan.
He is now under hospital arrest, while Senators Estrada and Revilla are detained in Camp Crame cells.
JP Enrile, and all other indictees, must be presumed innocent until found guilty in a fair trial.
But these recent events have tarnished the image of JP Enrile as a man to be admired. J.P. Enrile has ceased to be a gigantic figure in Philippine history.