In naming Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile as the mastermind of the pork barrel scam—based on a report prepared by the Office of the Ombudsman—it would seem that the noose is tightening on one of the country’s oldest and longest-serving public officials.
And while no one expects Enrile to eventually end up in prison owing to his advanced age, his career ends in the worst way imaginable. He is months away from turning 90, and even if he lives for another decade or two, Enrile can no longer hope to end his public life in a blaze of glory.
How sad for the man who just one year ago impressed the Filipino people with his masterful handling of the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona. Back then, Enrile displayed his mastery of the law when he served as presiding judge of the Senate acting as impeachment court.
To be fair to the man, history will always judge him as one of the key players of the original Edsa People Power Revolt of 1986. Philippine history might have taken a different turn had then Defense Secretary Enrile not partnered with then Armed Forces of the Phils. vice chief of staff Fidel Ramos, and withdrawn their support for Ferdinand Marcos.
He did briefly become part of the Cabinet of President Cory Aquino. But the two clearly had differences that could never be bridged.
Surprisingly, Enrile still managed to remain in government service, culminating in his being elected Senate President.
This was the closest he would get to the Philippine presidency, and he was at least head of a co-equal branch of government.
Then came the pork barrel scam. Initially, it seemed that Janet Lim Napoles was the brains behind the billion peso scam. But as Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago insisted during Napoles’s appearance before the Blue Ribbon committee, someone else was the likely mastermind.
Yes, Senator Santiago. She had declared herself the mortal enemy of Senator Enrile ever since the latter released what the former considered an insulting pittance for Christmas operations of each member of the Senate last year.
Like Enrile, Santiago is considered one of the country’s sharpest legal minds. And like Enrile, she too aspired for the presidency.
How frustrating it must be for JPE to now see Maid Miriam being perceived by the public as a heroine in the pork barrel scam. Her grilling of Napoles may not have elicited any admission of guilt, or identification of Enrile as the scam’s true mastermind, but she still managed to perform credibly well during that face off.
With plunder charges now filed by the Ombudsman against Napoles, Enrile and several other suspects, it would seem that the colorful career of JPE—former administrator of martial law turned EDSA hero turned Cory Aquino administration destabilizer turned able congressman and senator turned impartial impeachment court judge—must now end with his having to defend himself and what remains of his reputation against charges that he robbed the country blind.