A Life Less Ordinary: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile talks about the impeachment, being branded a terrorist

, and patriotism By Giselle P. Kasilag As the curtain rises on what is set to become the biggest television drama of the year, there is one man who is unmistakably on top of the whole situation. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is presiding over the Impeachment Court that will try Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. It is only the second impeachment trial in the nation s history, and a second one for Senator Enrile as well. As far as my role as a presiding officer, I m prepared. I ve studied the issues. I ve studied the facts narrated in the Articles of Impeachment. I ve studied the answers of the Chief Justice through his counsels. I ve also studied the reply of the House of Representatives. More or less, I have an idea of how things will proceed. Second, I made an analysis of the laws, the constitutional provisions involved, the statutory provisions and then the rules of evidence needed to handle these proceedings. I think I have covered a lot of ground already. In fact I prepared a trial brief for myself, he said. Eight Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Corona have been transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives. Adopting the same Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials originally intended for the former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, a guilty verdict on a single Article is all that will take to remove Chief Justice Corona from office. A separate voting will be held for each Article of Impeachment. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority or 16 votes while acquittal requires eight votes. While the rules appear to be clear, the amount of speculation on how each of the 23 senators would vote cannot be helped. Indeed, the public has been treating the event with the diligence of a regular bettor at the Sta. Ana Race Track tracking down each senator-judge s leanings and alliances (and presumed debts of gratitude) then computing the odds to figure out the vote. Senator Enrile, however, takes it all in a stride. Each one of us is responsible for his conduct and decision in this particular national issue. No one can dictate on the others. This is a battle of conscience. I m not going to influence anyone of my colleagues. I respect their independence and integrity, their probity, their loyalty to country. And it s up to them to make up their minds, he insisted. All I can say is, contrary to all statements made by others that this is a purely political exercise, that s not true. If they read Article 11 of the present constitution Accountability of Public Officers the primordial duty of every public officer and employee is to act with justice. We cannot do anything that is contrary to katarungan (justice) as we always say, based on our notion of what is just, what is right and wrong. If this is just a political exercise then we do not need anyone to present evidence. All we have to do is debate the issue because a political activity is based on debates and persuasion. But this one, we are required to try and decide the case. And when you say try, you have to receive the evidence. Due process demands you hear first before you judge. To judge, you have to weigh the facts

it has not stopped other groups from trying to derail the proceedings. That is the . I will not think about the public opinion. It doesn t say begin but proceed. Only the Senate can try and decide. Still. Senator Enrile unequivocally stated that he intends to see the entire process through no matter what. understanding of the issue and process but were blessed with a platform to disseminate their little knowledge there is a stronger leaning towards the emotion rather than the rational. Senator Enrile maintained. he reiterated. tends to perceive the process differently. No one else can try and decide this case but us. Claiming that he is no (Hilario) Davide the former Supreme Court chief justice who presided over the impeachment trial of the former President Joseph Estrada he would not think twice about asking the Senate s Sergeant-at-Arms to shut the doors if necessary. It is not a mere political exercise but a just trial as necessitated by the constitution in a democracy. Then the people can punish me in the next election if I run again. My position is that we cannot be a subject of a TRO because. My duty is to serve the country. We are judges or jurors I would call ourselves jurors who must render justice. This. Even my life goes with it. is a reaffirmation that the evidence must be heard fairly and impartially. however. Not even the Supreme Court.presented to you through evidence. In a previous interview. if sometimes even less. he continued. I did not say that facetiously or jokingly or irresponsibly. he explained. and in my capacity as a senator. I said it as a matter of my notion of what the constitution says. No more. With little understanding on how to appreciate evidence. The public. We are not judges of a beauty contest. Because it says. He pointed out the necessity of taking another oath to sit as a senator-judge for the Impeachment Court when their oath as senators of the Republic would ordinarily suffice. then the verified complaint shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed. The House prosecutes. to ensure that the proceedings continue without disruptions. That said. We have to render justice. and a tendency to be persuaded by opinion-makers many of whom have just as much. That s what I m elected for. We have no choice but to proceed with the trial. They can kick me out. Immediately. he mentioned that only the military can stop the impeachment trial from taking place. the Senate hears and decides. Not even the people. I respect public opinion but in my position as a presiding officer in this trial. Several cases have been filed at the Supreme Court requesting that a Temporary Restraining Order be issued to prevent the Senate from conducting the trial. in case the verified complaint or the resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives. he explained. the Supreme Court can cancel out the power given by the people to try and decide. They can malign me. That is my nature when I handle a case. no less. They can boot me out. otherwise. alarm was raised for a possibly coup based on his statement.

Neither does he bother with fear. we will decide it here. saying that death threats are silly. he no longer expects to be surprised not even in the upcoming impeachment trial. Even after he became a senator. Given the chance.mandate of the people in their constitution unless they want to withdraw the constitution and change it. use of legitimate force of the government could stop us from trying this case. Having experienced what he described as a psychedelic life. We will continue with this. investigated and interrogated for 89 days. in a very trying environment. You think you have control over your life. the terrorist label stayed. he related. I stayed in the jungle for three years. he has learned to embrace everything as an adventure. I live in an environment where every day is risky day for everyone. We will complete it. You re like a twig thrown into the stream of life and you do not know where it will take you. he insisted. the people if they will stop us through People Power or the military. Coming from a background of extreme poverty. It s not for me to change. he does not intend to allow anything to that would keep the Impeachment Court from fulfilling its duty to try the case and render a verdict. Some wither on the vine shortly. Have you ever wondered why some people die young? Some people die in the middle age. he still would not change anything. with a silver spoon. The accusation of terrorism was in connection with the events of over 20 years ago when he was suspected of masterminding the coup attempts against President Corazon Aquino s government. Indeed. 14). were what he credits for making him the person that he is now. He has been in public service for 45 years (since 1966) and in his almost 89 years on earth (his celebrates his 89th birthday on Feb. If they go out into the streets. and eventually the senate president. . Some stay long. I escaped and went back to the jungle until the war was finished. would not bother to call him as if to ask permission to do so. Those formative years. Senator Enrile overcame so many hurdles in his rise to power. I intend to make a decision nevertheless. only God. while tough. he is not even willing to change the fact that the United States government has branded him as a terrorist and would not allow him to enter their country. I was not fortunate enough to be born on a soft bed. A person who truly wants to kill him. If there is a People Power. some people die of old age? Why? I don t know. At least that s my notion. That s why I said. I ve been imprisoned by the Japanese military police. Life is a mystery. The conviction is far from surprising. Things happen and direct you where you ll go. I went to war for my country at an early age of 17. I grew up in a very trying system. he responded with a wistfulness that could only come from one who has seen too much. Even then. he explained. I know what life is.

Especially when I'm plotting something! he laughed. Beyond the problem of corruption. That's an achievement. He is a proud pre-paid phone user and has no intention of switching to a postpaid line though his salary from the Senate could afford him one. You can fault him for his working habits. I talk to them face to face. was able to fire up the imagination of the people. When the 1935 Constitution was in place. the question of election. practically imposing martial law on the government agency to ensure that it does not short-change the consumers. Traveling is not among his indulgences. he said. The senator has. ). The Carabao Bill. And for Senator Enrile. Whatever you may say. he said. is helping many farmers across the country. Of Fidel Ramos. That was a long time ago. and of course. but no one can say that he is not trying his best to reform the country. And now. You have to wonder how this man. corruption was not as much as it is now. He's trying to reform. He has kinder words for Joseph Estrada who was often teased for authoring only a single law while senator. Good for him. been around for a long time. Please do not use your multiple entry visa to avoid embarrassment. unschooled as he was (he didn't have the same education that you acquired). What's wrong with a prepaid line? Pareho rin (it s the same). I like my country better than yours. He described Corazon Aquino as a rallying point of her time who restored democratic freedom and freedom itself in the country. Of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We need to change the constitution. he continues to watch the National Telecommunications Commission. Otherwise. But reform is a tough pursuit swift in escaping from one s grasp. One thing you can say about him is that he is not corrupt. We have to start with the constitution. the change must come from the very foundation of the democracy. He became a president. he related. Neither does he spend splurge on cellphone load.They came here in January 2005. you cannot deny the fact that she contributed. I seldom use the telephone. Why? Because every public officer in the country. from the department heads to the school superintendents. You go back in time. he smiled and said. he d rather spend on books. If I want to talk to some people. the representative of the US Embassy and told me. although he was my subordinate for a long. I have no intention in going to your country. of the Benigno Aquino III. she contributed to uplifting the economy of the country. were all subject to the . long time. Though not a texter ( It will destroy your ability to speak in English if you get used to texting. who supported him. When asked when he last went plotting. So I said. indeed. depending on your usage. Long enough to see six presidents come and go. Most of the traveling he does involves visiting his beloved hometown in Cagayan.

And what is justice? Biblically. he continues to fight for a country that has been struggling to pick up the pieces after being shattered under the dictatorship and a series of inadequate leadership.confirmatory powers of the Commission on Appointments not only in their entry to their initial position. What is patriotism? Love of country. . but every step along the way as they were promoted. it is translated as doing to others what you want others to do unto you. That is the cause of all of this corruption. But he continues to indulge in patriotism. that s the simplest definition. At (almost) 89. I would not have gone to EDSA if I did not think of the country. The constitution says public officers and employees must at all times act with patriotism and justice. They were being challenged all the time about the performance! Today that is no longer true. That s how I simplify things in my life.