Enrile’s revenge

Marites Dau00f1guilan Vitug

Politicians write books to justify themselves and secure a place in history. After all, it is said that “history is determined by who gets to define it.”  

Enrile, according to Enrile, is loyal (only up to a point), a brilliant lawyer, problem-solver and reformist. If President Ferdinand Marcos listened to his advice to “hit the [secessionist] rebels while they’re still weak and finish them off once and for all,” the conflict in Mindanao would not have led to so much bloodshed.

While head of the customs bureau, he increased revenues significantly and started reforms in the graft-ridden office. What is striking is his compromise with the corrupt personnel of the bureau: he asked them to increase the government’s share in their collections to 80% (from 50%) and he promised not to question where the rest of the money went. As justice secretary, and later defense minister, he stood his ground against politicians with vested interests, including allies of Marcos.  

His main regret was not spending more time with his wife, Cristina, and children. “I realized later in my life that I failed my wife as a husband and both my children as a father…When I realized my mistake, it was too late for me to make amends.”

Those who expect him to say mea culpa for martial law are in for a huge disappointment. In fact, he justifies it. In Enrile’s world view, martial law was necessary because of the “widespread violence” caused by the communist insurgency, tribal conflicts in Mindanao, internecine political wars, and lawlessness. Remember that Enrile became the most powerful person in the country at the time, second to Marcos.

He shows little remorse about this phase in his life. He says that if he knew that martial law would be used to suppress freedoms, he would not have agreed to its imposition. That’s hard to believe because on day one of martial law, several opposition politicians and activists, including journalists, were arrested and detained. Newspaper offices and broadcast stations were shut down.

Trapped

The nagging question is: why did he stay throughout martial law and become its administrator and continue to work with Marcos, serving him for two decades?

Enrile offered to resign a few times but Marcos always said no. Unlike his friend, Rafael Salas, who was decisive and parted ways with Marcos early in his first term, Enrile seemed to enjoy being in power.

The answer thus begins in 1965, when Enrile campaigned for Marcos’s 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.” This was the time his law partners asked him to leave the thriving firm because of political differences; only he was for Marcos, the rest were for Diosdado Macapagal.

In 1983, Gen. Fabian Ver had already dislodged Enrile as Marcos’s favorite (Enrile describes Ver’s loyalty to Marcos as “blind”) and the power struggle between the two men was intense. Enrile asked to leave government but Marcos refused. “I knew that I could not extricate myself from his regime without endangering my life and my family,” writes Enrile. “ So I stayed on in the government and waited for an opportune time to get out of my entrapment.”

Cherry-picking

What is most glaring in the book, though, is Enrile’s omission of two explosive admissions which he publicly made in February 1986, during the first “people power” revolt. In a press conference at the time, he said that the 1972 attempted assassination on him was staged. Marcos used this incident, saying it was the last straw which triggered the declaration of martial law.

This is well documented by newspaper reports. It is therefore surprising that for a man with such vivid memory, one that stretches back to his childhood and the Japanese occupation of the country, he forgets that he made this confession. In his memoir, he made constant references to newspaper clippings. How could he have missed this?

In his book, Enrile blames his political enemies for spreading the “lie” that he faked his own ambush.

Enrile also said then that Marcos ordered him to cheat Corazon Aquino of about 300,000 votes in Cagayan during the snap elections. But in his memoir, Enrile doesn’t mention this at all. Instead, he writes breezily, “Despite the KBL’s [Kilusang Bagong Lipunan] dire prospects, I had an easy time in Region 11. The northern part of the country, which was heavily populated by Ilocanos, was the undisputed bailiwick of President Marcos.”

He mentions that, during Cory Aquino’s presidency, his logging company’s license was revoked. He saw this move as part of the Aquino government’s distrust of him. But he fails to say that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at the time cancelled more than 100 timber license agreements. His company’s was only one of them.

Scanty praises

Overall, the book is an interesting read especially when Enrile reveals insider stuff that gives us a ringside view of Marcos and the information he was privy to.

There are several nuggets scattered in the book but, despite what Enrile says that he is not out to settle scores, the tone of most of his memoir is one of revenge. He is scathing toward Jaime Cardinal Sin who, he claims, fabricated stories about him during Edsa 1, showing him to be wimpy, scared for his life, and begging for help. He calls Father James Reuter a “purveyor of falsehood.”  

He takes a dig at Eggie Apostol who used to publish the black-and-white edition of Mr. & Ms. that was highly critical of Marcos. Enrile says he and his wife, Cristina, helped Apostol raise money to support the magazine but when it made money, “none of the stockholders, except Eggie Apostol, received any income…”

He is scanty with praises. He reserved most of these for former President Joseph Estrada, who helped him when his political fortunes were down.

Luck

The most amazing part is his childhood and growing up years. As a love child who suffered grinding poverty, his is a deeply moving against-all-odds story. But hard and persistent work, an intelligent mind, and luck helped him become a successful lawyer, a wealthy man, and a national figure.

Edsa 1 saved him, airbrushed his reputation somewhat as a Marcos man. Then, in the twilight of his years, he is saved, once more, when he dazzles us with his wisdom and erudition as the presiding officer of the impeachment court that tried and convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona. He doesn’t devote much space to this historic episode, making his memoir uneven.

Enrile, 88, is the sum of many parts. Let’s take his caveat to heart: “I lay no claim to a monopoly of the truth.” - Rappler.com