Juan’s Upon a Time
By Cha Coronel Datu
Once upon a time, in a kingdom ruled by an overstaying tyrant, there was a man named Juan who held the keys that could either set his master’s enemies free or lock them up with the prospect of being tortured, raped or even murdered. Known as the Butcher of Martial Law in certain circles, he was feared and loathed in equal measure. With enormous power in his hands, it was the best of times for him and the worst for those that displeased him or his master.
But everything changed one February night, 30 odd years ago, when the Juan that the hapless people of the kingdom feared became the one that sought their protection. Found out for plotting against his master , he would have been captured and suffered the same fate as those he sent to the gallows himself. But having confessed his crime of conspiring to stage his own ambush, the people came to his rescue and the rest as we know, is the short history of a highway called EDSA.
Oh, how Juan must pine for the glory days. Nowadays, it seems that people are mostly just afraid of him dying on them, to be quite frank. You see, while his previous master did not succeed years ago in demolishing his hiding place with a military tank to flush him out and punish him for his betrayal, some very brave men and women on the side of the law have finally set in motion the judicial process that would have landed this old Juan in jail; this time around for allegedly stealing the people’s money that salivating politicians like him regularly set aside for a budget item called pork.
But eight men and women that called themselves Justices (out of the apparent kindness of their hearts), set him free despite the non-bailable nature of the crime he was being held for. The very generous and merciful Justices, it seems, were afraid the frail-looking Juan was too sick to be in a hospital bed in the make-believe prison where he was being held. And so they let him go. To wait and dream of better days ahead. (Perchance to sleep. Permanently?)
To date, none of the Justices have come out to express incredulity at the supposedly very sick one’s promptly marching back to work after his release and even stepping up the stage thereafter to retell a story called Mamasapano. (The effort by the way, mostly sent his audience to sleep, but that’s beside the point). You would have thought that with the collective wisdom of the eight Justices, they would have figured out by now that they have been played, if they weren’t in on it in the first place. Perhaps the Justices are what might be called legally blind, if you catch my drift.
Also Iikely to be wary of losing the old man is presidential candidate Binay. He needs this Juan ally to be around at least until he gets to the Palace by the river ; a dream he’s had way back when he was still tending to pigs in his uncle’s farm. For who else then will do the huffing and puffing for him when his opponents bring up the matter of an overpriced parking building that is so expensive it might actually cost him the presidency? Who else has vowed to howl Mamasapanohhhh, like Tarzan, for everytime anyone even just begins to wonder what songs a certain duo named Baloloy and Limlingan might be able to sing? There is just the Juan and only.
But wait, what fairy tale would be complete without a damsel in distress? Equally or perhaps even more so afraid would be the erstwhile queen of the Senate Hall, she who was called Ma’am Gigi. Left behind in the make-believe prison they used to share, she must dread the thought of her stem cell powered knight perishing in the battle against old age, and leaving her alone to pay for the designer bags, err I mean the sins that she only probably did for love. (Of money, that is.) Her knight hopefully powers on for her sake, she must pray every night. Or it’s goodbye Louis Vuitton and hello orange jumpsuits for her daily fashion parade.
So then where are the brave men and women that battled with monsters and giants and dynasts in our story? Where are the Davids to Juan’s Goliath?
The Female David
After mostly exhausting the political goodwill he gained from being hailed a hero at the Battle of EDSA through successive attempts to violently wrestle control from the people’s chosen leader; a time finally came when he started gaining inroads in once again consolidating his power base. This was mostly because of his leadership role in the dramatic retaking of the crown from a judge named Corona. Corona was unseated as the controversially appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in impeachment proceedings that Enrile chaired with much legal flair. Buoyed by his newfound popularity and seeming redemption in the eyes of the Filipino public, Enrile made an outrageous attempt at boldly re-writing another already mostly well-known story. He called it his autobiography.But the fair maiden Yolly Ong called his bluff and wrote in a widely circulated opinion column:
- “Just when we were about to forgive-and-forget Juan Ponce Enrile’s checkered past, he himself reminded us of what a wily, shifty chameleon he truly and naturally is. His stellar performance at the Corona impeachment leveraged enough glory for his son and namesake to become a strong contender for the Senate. Then he launches his autobiography and bio-documentary that attempt to revise history. It’s almost as if he can’t help but shoot his own foot.”
- “And as history and some unassailable sources avow, this would not be the first time Enrile “shot himself’. In Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir, and bio-documentary “Johnny” that aired in ABS-CBN— he recants his previous recantation of the assassination attempt on him, which Marcos used as one more reason to justify Martial Law.”
- “Did he expect national amnesia to afflict Filipinos who know the truth? Are we expected to forget the press conference that he and and then Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos called on Feb 22,1986 in the Ministry of National Defense when they withdrew their support for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos?In that life-and-death instance, he confessed that the attempt on his life was bogus. The following day, the headlines blared: “Enrile, Ramos lead ‘revolt’ against FM.” One of the subheads read: “1972 ambush fake—Enrile.”
- “In his attempt to leave an acceptable legacy for posterity and bequeath a Senate seat for junior, the nonagenarian is sanitizing his recollections instead of asking for absolution. Stem cell therapy can deter dementia but it cannot regenerate an innocent man.” (1)
Yolly Ong was promptly hauled to court by the protesting Enrile who sued her for P31 million for besmirching his reputation and causing him anguish of the mental kind. But brave Yolly was not to be intimidated. She filed a countersuit claiming moral and exemplary damages for Enrile’s violation of her freedom of speech based on unfounded claims. Unfortunately for the brave one, the lower court ruled in favor of Juan, with the Court of Appeals later upholding said ruling. The case against her has yet to be resolved. But she certainly got on Enrile’s case. While the well-oiled wheels of Justice barely squeaked carrying the weight of Juan, the once shiny and impenetrable veneer of his self-polished public image nevertheless got nicked by Ong’s sharpened pen.
The Political DavidAnd then there is the young senator Trillanes who astounded his colleagues and spectators in the Senate hall when he defiantly stood up announcing his leaving the Senate majority block over disagreements with its leadership (Enrile’s) on a bill seeking to divide the province of Camarines Sur. Here’s part of the Inquirer’s Maila Ager’s account of the tussle:
It was Trillanes who first stood up on the floor and announced that he was leaving the majority bloc to join the minority group after he exposed the alleged caucus called by Enrile in his office in the Senate last July 24.
Trillanes did not reveal what they discussed in the caucus but said “suffice to say that I was shoved aside for the nth time.”
“I got out of that caucus feeling trampled upon by a bully determined to get his way,” he said.
“My neophyte instincts were telling me then to just keep the peace and get out of his way. But then the public servant in me just couldn’t let thing pass,” said the senator.
Enrile said the bill should be passed immediately “to immediately relieve him of the pressure”, Trillanes recalled.
“What, the great Senator Enrile could be pressured? I remember him saying otherwise during the last impeachment proceedings,” he said.
“Is the pressure coming from Congressman Villafuete who we see often loitering about the senators’ lounge, the Senate President’s office and even possibly lobbying on [the bill] while we are in session?”
Trillanes said he kept on looking for a possible explanation for Enrile’s “irrational behavior” until a news report came out alleging that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called the Senate leader to speed up the passage of the bill.
“With this totally unexpected twist, everything seemed to fall into place. Now, there remain only two possibilities: That our Senate President is deeply indebted to GMA [Arroyo’s initial] or the he is a GMA lackey,” he said.
“Either way, I have lost trust, faith and confidence in Senator Enrile’s capability to lead the Senate along the path consistent with the reform agenda that I espouse.”
“I, therefore, manifest that I am leaving the majority and consequently joining the minority effective this day,” Trillanes added. (2)
Enrile’s fuming response to Trillanes that afternoon exposed a vengeful and spiteful old man with an unjustified sense of entitlement; a far cry from the mirage of a competent and erudite Chief Judge that people thought they saw during the Corona trial. The cracks in the ceiling of the House of Enrile just got a little more visible to the naked eye that day, thanks to Trillanes’ slingshot.
The Many Nameless Davids
But the dagger that pierced the heart of the ageing warrior came from where he least expected it. The people he once lorded over and who Juan’s upon a time rescued him from his own murderous master have come to reject his heir apparent, the son that he has prevailed upon to run for Senator in the 2013 elections. Despite being the top campaign spender among the candidates for senator that year, the voting public that has become increasingly disenchanted at the father delivered nothing but the son’s resounding and humiliating defeat. The great Juan Ponce Enrile was finally stripped of his cloak of invincibility, his political ambitions for his son killed in broad daylight.
Back to Juan’s Future
And so moving fast forward,we go back to present times where Juan Ponce Enrile’s humiliation is almost complete. Almost but not quite. He stands accused of plunder and graft in relation to the infamous Janet Napoles pork scam and has been held in detention for months up until eight affable Justices of the Supreme Court let him out on bail for what is a non-bailable offense. He can now wait it out, in comfort, until the next President steps in and possibly absolves him of his sins against the Filipino taxpayer.If you do not like where this story is going, brace yourself for an even worse horror story coming your way.
The next President of the Philippines will have the power to appoint the replacements of 10 Justices of the Supreme Court who are set to retire through the duration of his or her 6 year term. (3) Yes, 10 Justices when all it takes are 8 from the lot to look kindly on someone like Juan Ponce Enrile and leave those yearning for an equal serving of justice looking to divine intervention instead. What hope is there for true justice when any number of Justices can just so casually look down on her already downtrodden body and then spit on her face.
So if the next President is of the wheeling and dealing kind, beholden to grafters and plunderers, murderers, smugglers and cunning corporate criminals; or worse – is actually one or more of any of those himself or herself then we all can say goodbye to ever seeing the likes of Juan Ponce Enrile actually paying for their wrongdoing. Chances are this President will fill up the Supreme Court with Justices who can be influenced if not just as keen to rule favourably towards his or her benefactors. And we may all just as well start sending invites to impunity’s grand welcome back party. Juan Ponce Enrile, Bongbong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and the more than forty assorted thieves that stole taxpayers’ money can start queuing for their get-out-of-jail passes, one cooperating Justice at a time.
So the Filipino voters will have to think about this when they choose their next President.
And when they choose the Vice President too, because one never knows what can happen to the President.
And likewise the next batch of Senators and Congressmen. (Because if a Senator or Congressman gets picked for the Judicial and Bar Council, he or she too can have a say in who gets to sit in the Judiciary.)
They may not have a say on who gets to be the country’s Supreme Court Justices but every voting Filipino certainly has a say on who gets to have the power to do so. They have the ability in that one vote to finish to their satisfaction this story that’s been rambling along for a little over a half century by now.
So, will the people vote into office a trustworthy President, as well as a Vice-President and legislators who they can all rely on to choose or push the appointment of men and women of uncompromising integrity to fill up the Judicial bench, men and women of law who will commit to reforming the justce system and end the culture of impunity? If they do, then there should be a chance for justice. And we may yet get to see –
(To the power of Juan. And 2 Bongbongs, 3 Estradas, 4 Binays…)
(1) I Case You Missed It – Like Father, like Son? by Yoly Ong