SEN. Juan Ponce Enrile is raring to return to his work at the Senate. Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is eagerly awaiting JPE’s return so he could participate in the debates on the proposed Law on the Bangsa Moro (LBM), aka Bangsamoro Basic Law. This eager anticipation notwithstanding, I don’t expect JPE to be as active in committee hearings and plenary debates as before.
Recall that JPE had used his age (he’s 91) and his fragile health as reasons why he should he detained in a hospital despite his being charged with plunder and 15 counts of graft. Now that he’s free on bail, he can’t possibly be as active in the Senate as before – unless he suddenly discovered the Fountain of Youth or a miracle cure for his many ailments.
Oh yes, there’s a similar incident in the 13th Congress. National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales had been cited in contempt by the Senate blue ribbon committee for refusing to give details on a government contract with a US law firm. The committee, headed by then Sen. Joker Arroyo, allowed Gonzales to be detained at the Philippine Heart Center after Gonzales complained of chest pains. The Senate panel later ordered Gonzales release “for humanitarian reasons.” Wonder of wonders! After his release, Gonzales became healthy all of a sudden and immediately resumed his normal work in Malacañang.
I’m not saying that JPE was merely feigning illness. The fact is, he loves to work even when he’s not feeling well, as shown by the long hours he spent each day during the impeachment hearing of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
I consider his participation in vital committee hearings almost legendary. Before he became Senate President, JPE had attended the most number of hearings among the senators. His participation was very educational even to the gallery. Very often, he would add details that even the expert resource persons had failed to mention. He often asked in-depth questions that sought to elicit clearer information on the bill being discussed.
Now, I no longer expect JPE to be attending so many committee hearings as before, and I hope he won’t ignore his health in favor of performing what he used to be doing. He has already done his job. He may ease off and the public will understand.
He may still participate in plenary debates as long as he could muster the energy. There’s one thing about him that I hope he will leave behind with his return to the Senate. I’m referring to his temper, which has become legendary, almost equal to that of his nemesis Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
A number of times, he lost his cool in debates, resulting to unparliamentary remarks. He once called Senators Nene Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes 4th “cowards.” He went almost ballistic when then Minority Leader Tito Guingona “glared” at him while debating on the charges against then President Erap Estrada.
One incident that’s not well-known was his run-in with Sen. Rodolfo Biazon. JPE resented Biazon’s use of the phrase “the so-called EDSA 1” while praising the Outstanding Soldiers and urging them not to joing any military adventurism. He thought Biazon was demeaning EDSA 1 and he shouted his outrage over this.
“Who are you to say that? I risked my life in EDSA. If EDSA meant nothing to you, it meant a lot to me!” he raged.
JPE, along with then Col. Gringo Honasan, now a senator, and then AFP vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos who became president later, led EDSA 1 that caused the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. Biazon was in Davao as commander of a Marine contingent when EDSA 1 erupted in February 1986.
The session was suspended so JPE could cool down but he didn’t.
“He said that on record and in my presence,” JPE fumed.
Sen. Bong Revilla thought he could ease JPE’s temper by offering a glass of water. He got scolded instead.
“I’m not a little boy!” JPE barked at Revilla.
The session was disrupted for almost 30 minutes because of this incident, then abruptly adjourned after a short resumption. So, while JPE’s work ethic makes for a more productive legislature, his volcanic temper could also hinder
There’s no doubt about it – the return of JPE to the Senate will be well received by his peers but most of all, by the Senate employees whom he had showered with unprecedented perks during his tenure as Senate President.
FB: Efren Limos Danao