ENRILE: ANTI HERO AND HERO IN ONE
Juan Ponce Enrile in his autobiography is a hero. Who will not do the same in the first place? Notes however from UG (underground, the term used by progressives who later were conscripted into the rebel fold and eventually joined the insurgency), JPE is an anti hero, a villain, as solid as a rock. He was their arresting authority, jailor and head executioner rolled in one.
JPE could not be defined in one sitting though. He could not even qualify as an enigma. He is as real as events and he has adjusted well even to the point of taming major incidents to his advantage. He may be wrong and his presence disadvantageous, he may be unpatriotic and wicked but that is how things happen in this world. Either one is in deep shit or otherwise.
JPE may have been inured in gross indigence that anything favourable (or unfavourable) notwithstanding taste would be fair game for him. History after all favors or casts disservice depending on the one writing it.
Nothing in this country’s history could approximate what JPE has done and undergone. To say that his entry into the country’s history gave him a name is an understatement. JPE contributed his name unto it on every role he played and succeeding where others merely tired out, retired or failed. He may have seen his end when according to his book he was left in a detention center by invading Japanese forces during World War II, left at the mercy of elements, left to die unceremoniously. But he survived, as he crawled back into the fold during peace time. He would work hard with great effort to get a piece of the sun, to get a chunk of luck if only to enjoy the satisfaction of recognition.
He was a love child and like any unwanted kid, he must adjust from the lowest rung in the family up until a little notch higher. He must act like a slave and continue with it until he is accepted as kin. Pet animals share the same fate.
For JPE, his fate seems to coincide with the fate of his nation. His story is almost the same as the country that harboured his plight. His struggle is similar to that of his government. Although in the final count, he progressed better than his principal. As a matter of fact, his fortune increased by leaps and bounds while his country sinks one damned layer after another. There is no correlation in this regard. It is just that JPE never retreated at a time when most of his peers and fellowmen were at the height of cowardice. That made the big difference.
JPE played on both sides. He was a hero to a certain extent. He was an anti hero on the other end. He was a hero during the EDSA revolt for sure. Although he never carried the day but he drew first blood. His defiance against a dictatorial regime he previously propped up became the reckoning period for historical forces to tilt the balance and throw out an abusive administration. A revolutionary government literally grew out from his rebellion and the succeeding administrations were unceremonial offspring of his insurgence . That cannot be taken away from the man. EDSA revolt began from his personal revolt.
Despite such cleansing effort from a figure during martial law as a disdained collaborator and anti hero, he would reinvent himself into a person with heroic streak.
A grateful constituency would award him recognition by electing him to high office. He would be the elder statesman, a mentor and almost a sage among legal luminaries and legislators. He was so confident that his battle cry would be quoted seriously and jokingly by almost everybody “Ang gusto ko happy ka!” He would forget private life but would rather spend the rest of his conscious existence in the service of his country. At a full age of 88, he would even be the fountainhead of that body that would rule and dismiss the career of the highest magistrate of the land. He would hand down the verdict against the Chief Justice as Chair of the Impeachment Court. That would have been the swan song, the final curtain, garland for a heroic life. But a last minute twist of fate would pull him down and back to the back burner of history.
At the age of 90 and still enjoying the tenure as Senate President, he would be charged with an unbailable offense and detained in a police custodial center. For this man, the stretch and breadth of his authority and influence, moral and philosophical, social and political, could only be expressed on how he is addressed. He is Manong Johnny to his peers. JPE to his admirers. Juanito to his family. But at the moment, he is Enrile.