Juan Ponce Enrile (JPE), at this stage of his life and career may now be thinking about the legacy he would leave behind for posterity after having been part of the nation’s history, sometimes as hero and sometimes as villain, but, in both cases, so clearly a conspicuous shine, either brightly or darkly as a black hole in the political firmament of the country.
In his youth he was outstandingly intelligent, a fact which his errantly fecund father could not help but recognize and took him in his aegis and welcomed him into the respectability of his legitimate household and honour of the family name.
His academic record is par excellence having graduated with honours in the Ateneo de Manila and the state university despite the fact he was a working student. His academic history is capped by having completed post graduate studies on a scholarship in Harvard as a master of laws.
In the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Renato Corona he sits as the presiding officer of this honourable assemblage; a people’s court task with the ferreting out of the truth in the allegations of Congress that impeached Corona. It was a disappointment to see him vacillate in his rulings, blowing hot and cold, favouring a technicality then going back to the search for truth modality of an impeachment court.
Perhaps he finds himself in a quandary, to play his role of presiding officer with utmost impartiality or to pay back, maybe unconsciously, a debt of gratitude to an old friend who was instrumental in exonerating him from rebellion charges in the dark distant past. This lawyer friend is none other than Serafin Cuevas, the lead counsel for the defense of the impeached Corona.
JPE has had moments forgetting his role as presiding officer of the impeachment court; the countervailing force of which may be his earnest desire to be seen in a heroic light, fair and truly the venerable statesman dispensing equitable justice towards all.
Who would have thought that JPE would be such a wimp and allow his court to be overrun by the overbearing lady senator whose intractable behaviour remained unchecked throughout the whole impeachment proceedings.
This weakness was carried over by his reluctance to fight for the integrity of his impeachment court by allowing the Supreme Court to defy the subpoena orders issued by his court. He reasoned out that he was avoiding a clash between the Supreme Court and the Senate which may lead to a constitutional crisis. He opted to cluck in what was a game of “chicken” between the wills of two powerful coequal branches of government citing the doctrine of “last to act” to avoid a collision.
Both are governed by the same doctrine and the Supreme Court could have veered from the smash up but was more unshakeable than the presiding officer of the impeachment court. What seemed apparent was his evasion of any conflict with the stalwarts of the defense.
He did not admonish the boorish loudness of Miriam, did not check the garrulous but sagacious Cuevas both of whom have knowledge of the law at depths rivalling his own. There were times that one might suspect that he, not to be outdone, joined in the ego tripping of Cuevas and Miriam and lectured in a condescending fashion the members of the prosecution team.
What goes on in the mind of a political Titan in the twilight of his years: intimations of mortality, the life hereafter, divine justice, past glories, leaving a fine footprint in history and having a chance at greatness in the eyes of his countrymen? The other side of the coin is the infamy of being regarded as one of the dark lords during the reign of the dictator Marcos, as a lackey of the former dictator, an architect of the rapacious martial law regime and the gang leader of a coup attempt of the newly installed Cory government.
He was a man disgraced but through a reconciliatory Cory leadership and a non-indignant citizenry, allowed himself to bounce back unfettered by his past sins and have risen to lofty aspirations, though not as a President of the republic but as a Senate President.
Is he still his own man or is he nothing more than just a befuddled old man torn between die-hard bad habits versus his concern about leaving a positive legacy for his name or even making peace with his maker before the curtains fall?
Worldly successful old men at their end of days often reflect on the biblical question; “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul?”
If “…loss of his soul” means having distanced himself from the truth (…the way and the light) then it is equivalent to the perdition of losing one’s desired place in history and being cast in hell.
JPE is faced with the question of clinging on to the vanity of his hubris or to renounce it by a last act of avoiding a collision with what is right. It should be an easy one for JPE to decide.