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There’s the Rub

Enrile vs People of the Philippines

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You may accuse Juan Ponce Enrile of being duplicitous, but you may not accuse him of being dumb. He is in fact exceedingly clever. His challenge to Satur Ocampo and Jose Ma. Sison to appear with him before the Truth Commission shows so.

To begin with, there is no Truth Commission, there is only a directive from President Aquino for the National Historical Commission to form a committee to look into the truth about martial law. His exact words were: “Nais nating tiyakin na katotohanan lamang ang bukal ng mga impormasyong nakalimbag sa mga aklat ng mga estudyante—hindi sa pinagtagpi-tagping kasinungalingan ng mga propagandista; hindi sa mga retaso ng panlilinlang ng mga rebisyonista.” (“We want to make sure that only the truth becomes the wellspring of the information that appears in the textbooks of students—not the tangle of lies of propagandists; not the throwaway deceptions of revisionists.”)

First off, by posing the challenge against Ocampo and Sison, Enrile tries to shift attention away from him to them, or specifically from his fake ambush to the Plaza Miranda bombing. He explicitly refers to Plaza Miranda: Let them try to explain that bombing, he says. The reason for it being that there is a version that says Ferdinand Marcos did not order that bombing, Sison did. Though debatable, that is attention-grabbing, and he can always escape scrutiny for his ambush by stoking its fires.

Who wreaked the Plaza Miranda bombing we truly ought to know. But that is for another day. It is not Ocampo and Sison who have just written a book claiming all sorts of things, it is Enrile. Specifically, it is Enrile who has claimed his ambush was real. It is Enrile who has claimed he was a victim of martial law. It is Enrile who has claimed he rescued us from Marcos. We want to make sure that only the truth flows into the minds of the kids, not the tangle of lies of self-propagandists and the throwaway deceptions of revisionists. It is Enrile’s claims we ought to examine, and debunk.

Second, by posing the challenge against Ocampo and Sison, Enrile reduces the equation to: “It’s just my word against that of the communists. Whom are you going to believe?” When in fact the people who are rebutting his claim that his ambush was real are the people themselves who went through the ordeal of martial law. Hell, when in fact the one who rebutted his claim  that his ambush was real was he himself, as duly recorded by reputable journalists, as heard by the millions of Filipinos on radio when—the prospect of imminent death putting the fear of God in him, specifically his ninth commandment that said, “Thou shalt not lie”—he confessed to it. Clearly, he thinks stem cell has dispelled that imminence.

More subtly, he reduces the equation to the same one Marcos did when he declared martial law: “It’s just a choice between me and communists. Whom would you rather have?” That was explicitly how Marcos justified martial law—to quell anarchy and rebellion. Both of which were of his making. The anarchy drew in great part from the manufactured bombings, capped by Enrile’s ambush. And the rebellion grew not in spite of him but because of him. Marcos—with Enrile sitteth at the right hand of him—became the biggest recruiter for the New People’s Army, as the US State Department put it.

In fact, the choice throughout martial law was never between dictatorship and communism, it was between dictatorship and democracy, iron-fisted rule and freedom. How freely Enrile wants the truth known, we know from, among other events, his getting the Supreme Court to issue a TRO preventing the crew of “A Dangerous Life,” a TV movie about Edsa, from filming its ending here. That was when he was Cory Aquino’s defense secretary. They had to film the People Power scene in Sri Lanka, with the crowd shouting “Curry, Curry” in lieu of “Cory, Cory,” but which was still far closer to the truth than Enrile’s version of things.

Third, by demanding that we compare the NPA’s atrocities and his, Enrile puts both parties on the same plane, subject to the same norms of judgment. In fact they are different. It’s not merely that his atrocities as custodian of martial law are far more patent—we have only the records of the martial law military to say differently—it’s also, and far more so, that their situations are as stark a contrast as day and night. Rebellion by itself is a crime, and to be a rebel, whether you commit an atrocity or not, is to be punished by imprisonment or death. Governance by itself is a privilege, and to be a governor, whether you do good or not, is to be rewarded by taxes and the allegiance of the citizens. For a governor to commit an atrocity, or indeed to betray the public’s trust, that’s one of the most contemptible and condemnable things in this world.

The rebels paid for whatever they did by having to live the life of fugitives, quite apart from being tortured or killed when caught. Enrile made us pay for what he did with our forests and our ores, quite apart from our lives and our freedom, while living the life of a king. How can that be put on the same footing? How can that be subject to the same norms of judgment?

Finally, by bringing the fight to Ocampo and Sison, Enrile tries to remove the people from the picture. In fact, the fight is not between Marcos and the communists, between Enrile and Ocampo and Sison. The fight is between Marcos and Enrile and the country they devastated, between them and the people they oppressed. You know the joke about the man who says, “I just killed one man, why am I fighting the whole nation?” In this case, the legal phrasing is accurate, literally as well as figuratively. This is not case of Enrile vs. Ocampo and Sison, this is a case of Juan Ponce Enrile vs:

The people of the Philippines.


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