There’s the Rub

Leaks in the dike

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First off, my monumental thanks to WikiLeaks, whose founder Julian Assange remains cooped up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, unable to set foot outside its gates. In a week’s time, it has given today’s generation a better glimpse of martial law than Juan Ponce Enrile’s not very entertaining fiction about it.

The first leak had to do with Imelda. On her husband’s birthday in September 1973, she mounted a “two-day blast” for him, the highest, or lowest, point of which was getting the generals to dance in drag. “In general,” US Ambassador William Sullivan wrote his home office, “every aspect of the occasion was too much, too long, and in questionable taste. This whole affair was a saccharine suffusion of sycophancy.” Elsewhere, Sullivan spoke of Imelda’s opulent lifestyle—the word “Imeldific” hadn’t been invented then—while Filipinos groveled in poverty. He warned the British government, “First Lady has reputation for royal manner of lifestyle in Philippines and would not be above lobbying for invitation to (Princess Anne’s) royal wedding.”

The second, and more damning, leak had to do with Jackie Enrile.

On Sept. 25, 1975, Ernest Lucas, a 19-year-old student, was shot in the face in an altercation with Jackie Enrile. Lucas had come to fetch his sister from a party that Jackie was attending. Jackie refused to let him in and a quarrel ensued. Jackie never saw court. An aide of his, Danilo Cruz, promptly owned up to the killing, saying it was an accident. Cruz was reassigned elsewhere.

Sullivan sent several cables on the incident: “NBI sources have completed their investigation and have indicated to us that both the Enrile boy and his bodyguard are liable to prosecution… We are not informed as to specific charges NBI would prefer although some NBI sources have told us unequivocally, and contrary to Secretary Enrile’s assurance to ambassador, that Enrile’s son did the shooting…. Jackie did not even appear in person at hearings since he was ‘attending classes.’ While taking sworn statement accords with recognized Philippine procedure, in cases of this importance, witnesses are normally interrogated in person by investigating fiscal. Government relied on his deposition.”

Fr. Robert Reyes corroborated the story only a few days ago. Reyes is an uncle of the victim. He recounted the story in an interview on TV in 2000 and got slapped with a libel case by Juan Ponce Enrile. In 2011, a Quezon City court “provisionally dismissed” the case. To help Reyes in his libel case, the victim’s own father, Navy Capt. Ernesto Lucas, deposed that the elder Enrile offered him two blank checks to stop his quest for justice.

By far the most compelling voice there is Sullivan’s. The Enriles may always try to have Lucas’ and Reyes’ word dismissed by the courts and the public as biased and clouded by emotion, quite apart from hurling or threatening libel against them and those who believe them, but not so Sullivan’s. As ambassador, it was Sullivan’s job to report as accurately as possible on the country of his posting, American policy depending on it. As ambassador, Sullivan was privy to intelligence of the highest quality, and was constantly kept posted. As ambassador, Sullivan made his position unequivocally clear: He believed Jackie Enrile to have murdered the boy called Ernest Lucas.

Two things we may draw from this.

One is how powerful Enrile was during martial law, until he got nudged out of Marcos’ side by Fabian Ver, who showed more canine loyalty. And contrary to his depiction of himself as a Schindler of sorts who saved the abject and oppressed from further victimization, he shoved them under its path. However you slice it, that a killing like that should happen under your watch, that no serious investigation of it should take place under your watch, that no one should be punished for it under your watch, you must not be watching. Or you were eating popcorn while you watched. If Ernesto Lucas is to be believed, if Robert Reyes is to be believed, if William Sullivan is to be believed—and why ever not, they never claimed to have been bushwhacked with not a scratch to show for their ordeal—he did not discourage viciousness and abuse, he abetted it. Not least his son’s.

Two is why the case hasn’t been resurrected today. Now is the best time to hale the younger Enrile to court. There is no statute of limitations on murder, particularly murder most foul. The witnesses who disappeared shortly after the murder fearing for their lives can always come back to tell their tale. This is another time entirely, this is another rule entirely, one that offers the possibility of retribution, one that offers the probability of restitution. Those witnesses will remember every detail of what happened 38 years ago. Some things you just don’t forget. Some things are just branded in your memory.

Enrile, the father, has drawn attention to his real role during martial law by openly challenging his countrymen’s direct experience of it in a book, proposing to them that they might not trust their senses. Enrile, the son, has drawn attention to his real role in life by running for one of the highest public offices in the land, proposing to his countrymen that he has a right to govern them. Both gratuitously, breathtakingly, contemptuously. Well, life has a way of punishing hubris. The Furies have a way of catching the scent of bloodstained hands.

It’s not enough that we punish a criminal by not voting for him, by making him lose an election. We need to prosecute him too. We need, if he is found guilty, to jail him too.

Thank God for WikiLeaks. It has been a leak in the dike called forgetfulness. It has been a leak in the dike called impunity.

It has been a leak in the dike called evil.

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