FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao
When former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile reappeared in public last May 17 to lend support to President’s Duterte’s appeasement policy toward China, not everybody was surprised, including this columnist.
In his audience with the President, which became part of the pre-recorded “Talk to the People,” Enrile emphatically said that the country will lose more if we antagonize China. “We have no choice except to negotiate with China,” he added.
Of course, it was music to the ears of the President who has time and again said that the Philippines would not confront China lest this would lead to war with the country the ultimate loser.
“We need a friendly approach here, not a hard, assertive and aggressive approach. If China misunderstands us, the security and interest of our people, our economy, would be on the line,” Enrile said.
But in 2012, Enrile was singing a different tune. According to veteran journalist Marites Vitug in her book, “Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won its Maritime Case Against China,” Enrile was in favor of the country asserting its rights in the disputed territory.
In a meeting with former President Benigno Aquino III, the participants, including Enrile, voted to “internalize” the dispute and this resulted in the arbitral ruling in 2016 that invalidated China’s claim of almost the whole of the South China Sea.
When asked about his position in 2012 as recalled by Vitug and his latest advice to President Duterte, Enrile said he could not recall if he talked to Vitug. But Enrile added that this was true, he has the right to change his perception.
What’s he up to?
Enrile, at 97, is still sharp and articulate and it is not difficult to conclude that he is seeking an elective post, probably a return to the Senate under the administration party that is expected to be led by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as the standard bearer.
Enrile’s vigor and sharpness could be attributed to earlier reports that he has undergone stem cell therapy in Europe. Of course, Enrile has neither denied or confirmed this report.
But what is confirmed is that Enrile is now making himself available to the media for interviews. After his audience with the President Enrile was a guest of the top-rated “Pasada sa Teleradyo” of ABS-CBN where expounded on his views on China.
Ambush: fake or real?
On February 22, 1986, when Enrile and then-Armed Forces vice chief of staff Fidel Ramos turned against Marcos and joined the crowds massing on EDSA, Enrile admitted in a news conference that his 1972 ambush was fake.
Over the past years, Enrile offered different versions of the same event, the one that justified the declaration of martial law in September 1972. He was supposedly “ambushed” in Wack-Wack Subdivision on the night before Marcos declared martial law.
His claim was reported in the major local and foreign media. But in his 2012 book, Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir, and in a documentary that aired on ABS-CBN the same year, Enrile said he was indeed “ambushed.”
Was the ambush real? Did he lie about the ambush? Did he lie about faking the ambush?
Enrile, a brilliant lawyer and a shrewd politician, can tinker with the facts willy-nilly and get away with it. He is, indeed, a man for all reasons.