As we celebrate the 26th anniversary of EDSA One, the Filipinos' show of People Power, I look at Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and can't help but be amazed by how he has participated in the different phases of the Filipino nation's political life, including one of its darkest, and be regarded with respect and a source of wisdom and stability.
Sitting as the presiding judge in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, Enrile's competent handling of one of the biggest legal events in the country assures the public that whatever the decision of the senator-judges, whether Corona would be acquitted or convicted, Philippine democracy would be enriched.
Enrile was very much part of the two-decade Marcos regime in various capacities in the department of justice,finance, and defense.
As defense minister, he was an enforcer of martial law declared on Sept. 21, 1972, that saw the arrest of thousands of Marcos political enemies including members of media. Newspapers and TV stations were closed and only Marcos-friendly media were allowed to operate later.
To freedom fighters, Enrile's name evoked fear and hatred.
I remember in the mid- 80's when Sylvia de la Paz, wife of slain doctor Bobby de la Paz , in a TV show, looking at Enrile straight in the eye and accusing him and the establishment he was representing of having to do with the death of her husband. It was an astounding act of courage.
Then, EDSA One happened. On Feb. 22, 1986, Enrile with then chief of the Philippine Constabulary Fidel V. Ramos,led a coup d'etat against Marcos. Supported by the population, Marcos fell four days four later and Cory Aquino was installed president.
Cory Aquino Spokesman/Speechwriter and former Makati representative Teddy Locsin has said all the martial law sins of Enrile were erased by his role in EDSA One.
But the uneasy partnership between the former jailor and the jailed didn't last long because Enrile was implicated in a number of coups against Cory Aquino led by Enrile's former aide, then Capt. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, now a senator.
Enrile was also implicated and even jailed in another incident of political shakedown directed against the unelected presidency of Gloria Arroyo in May 2001.
While many of his EDSA One co-actors have faded into the background, Enrile continues to play a prominent role in the current political scene. At 88 years old!
Rex Robles, who headed the special study group in Enrile's office at the defense ministry and one of the participants in EDSA One, also marvels at the transformation of his former boss into an "iconic" political figure.
He said the rehabilitation of Enrile from a martial law enforcer and destabilizer to a source of political stability is a result of "circumstances prevailing upon him to reinvent himself."
He said Enrile is able to draw from his deep emotional, spiritual and intellectual resources. He further said that Enrile's love for books on philosophy has given him a wider view of things.
Robles gives a lot of significance to Enrile's "88", which, he said, viewed horizontally is double " Lemniscate" ,the infinity symbol.
"In a sense, 'free from boundaries'. JPE is clearly at the moment in time when he has liberated himself from the boundaries of his past. At the same time, he clearly indicates the boundaries of the impeachment process for the prosecution, the defense, and for the court itself," Robles said of his mentor.