Johnny and the Drama Triangle
by Cha Coronel Datu
“When we are young we do not look into mirrors. It is when we are old, concerned with our name, our legend, what our lives will mean to the future. We become vain with the names we own, our claims to have been the first eyes, the strongest army, the cleverest merchant. It is when he is old that Narcissus wants a graven image of himself.” (Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient)
|Time Magazine: Enrile rallies rebels against Marcos, Feb 24, 1986
“All the world’s a stage . . .”
Juan Ponce Enrile or Juanito Furraganan as he was then known might not even have had a mirror to look into as a child. Had it been otherwise, had he grown up in a house that didn’t want for any mirrors, might we be reading a far different story from that which he penned in his memoir? Might the image he now desires to leave of himself perhaps be much more faithful to the truth, closer to the image that looks back at him in his mirror?
There must have been a mix-up in the casting department when little Johnny was born. Instead of getting the part of the golden boy that everyone adored, he got cast as the impoverished “bastardo”; ridiculed by playmates because of the circumstances of his birth, ordered around as a houseboy by the relatives who sent him to school where he then gets set upon and mauled by some rich bullies.
“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”
Little Johnny’s first steps in life lead to a trail of what psychologists would call a Drama Triangle. The Drama Triangle, first described by psychiatrist Stephen Karpman, is a psychological and social model of human interactions where the protagonists alternately act out any of three archetypal roles: victim, rescuer or persecutor.
You would recognise these roles in your own relationships, there’s always plenty enough of each type that find their way into our own life dramas: the victim who feels oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, and ashamed; the persecutor who pressures, bullies, blames, criticizes, and keeps the victim oppressed; and the rescuer who rushes to defend the victim, saving and protecting him from the persecutor.
The young Enrile looks to have been miscast. He resented and struggled with his assignment. He did not have the predisposition or the constitution for victimhood. Here’s what he thought of the school authorities who expelled him after complaining to local police of being assaulted by the child whose parents were part owners of the school he went to:
“The action of the supposed educators in the school totally dismayed me. They condoned the desecration of elementary justice. They had no compassion at all… For the first time, I saw a naked example of ‘palakasan,’ the evil that I was to encounter many times in my life.”
Little Johnny would have wanted more. He must have envisioned for himself a life beyond the sorry script handed him at birth. With the help of a few relatives, he sought to escape poverty, and ultimately his persecutors, through hard work and the sheer determination to get himself a good education. When his biological father finally acknowledged him and committed to providing for him from thereon, his rescue became complete. He finally found the way out of the drama triangle that subjugated his young life.
“Yesterday’s victims become tomorrow’s oppressors.”
Armed later on with stellar academic credentials and a promising legal career, his transformation would have been unmistakeable. If he had looked into a mirror around about that time, the man he would have seen could not have looked anything like the little Johnny that once upon a time was held captive inside a drama triangle.
|Judge Johnny Bravo
But Johnny Bravo wanted more.
In 1965, he campaigned for Marcos’ first presidential bid. “I decided to hitch my future and that of my family to the single goal of ensuring Marcos’s victory for it was a matter of make or break for me.” Marcos won and the rest is history; his version of it captured in Manong Johnny’s memoir.
Johnny Bravo inadvertently made his way back to the Drama Triangle through his new benefactor Marcos. As Marcos’ Defense Chief in 1972, he became the co-author of Martial Law, which among others gave him, and the armed forces which he managed, the authority to “prevent or supress…any act of insurrection or rebellion.”
This time around, Enrile took on the role of persecutor with eyes wide open. He earned for himself the title “Butcher of Martial Law” among human rights victims and their families. The Communist Party of the Philippines claims that he has “signed countless arrest warrants that led to the capture and detention of thousands of farmer leaders, workers, students, activists in the Church and other critics and opponents of martial law.”
Johnny Bravo wanted more.
In 1986, he and his RAM boys attempted to take over the reign of government from an ailing Marcos. But their plans got waylaid. The Filipino people he willingly oppressed ended up rescuing him from Ver and the rest of Marcos’ loyal armed forces. Johnny came out of Camp Crame still undefeated.
But Johnny Bravo wants even more.
He was no longer content being someone’s Defense Chief, and especially not of the housewife Cory Aquino. He and his RAM boys plotted one unsuccessful coup d’état after another throughout Cory Aquino’s presidency. Cory Aquino prevailed. Johnny got bravo no more.
Twenty or so years later, Manong Johnny strikes gold. A brilliant performance as presiding officer at Corona’s impeachment trial earns him the respect and admiration of both his detractors and supporters. That it leads to the hoped for ouster of Corona made it almost heroic in the eyes of many of his countrymen. It would have been the perfect exit from political and public life for this octogenarian.
Still, Manong Johnny wants more.
Enrile becomes part of the UNA leadership triumvirate, possibly to ensure the election of his son, Jack, as senator in 2013. Everything was going well; the son was doing well in the polls because of the father’s still high satisfaction rating and popularity with voters.
|Trillanes and Enrile, sans pistols at 10 paces
And then the young upstart Trillanes dared stand in his way on the Camarines Sur Bill. Trillanes refused to back down on his objection to the splitting of his province and is suspected of purposely delaying voting on the Bill by calling in sick on the day of his scheduled interpellation. Enrile calls him a coward. Trillanes fights back, delivers a privilege speech, and announces his departure from the majority coalition because of dissatisfaction with Enrile’s leadership who he further claims has lost the moral authority to lead as Senate President.
Manong Johnny sees red, crimson red. Johnny Storm is unleashed from his den. A rumble not seen before in the august body is played out on national TV, spills over all other media in the ensuing days and does not look to be over just yet.
Manong Johnny has well and truly marched back into the drama triangle; in full battle gear at that. The proverbial knives have been taken out, aimed at Trillanes and just about anyone who has crossed him since then. Little Johnny may have finally gotten what he always wanted.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” (John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things)