Arrogance | Inquirer Opinion
There’s the Rub


Juan Ponce Enrile had some choice words for his tormentors last Wednesday. In a privilege speech announcing his resignation as Senate president, he assailed Alan Peter Cayetano and Miriam Santiago in particular for the injustice he felt they had done him. Cayetano he expressly identified, Santiago he obliquely referred to.

In a shaking voice, he railed at the harm the two wreaked not just on him but on the Senate. “No matter how baseless and malicious their accusations were, the issues hurled against me and their implications (hurt) not only my own but the Senate’s integrity.” The personal harm to him, he said, was incalculable. “The common analysis of observers showed that Jack’s (his son’s) candidacy suffered from the fallout and bitter criticism hurled against me by those I displeased. I endured in silence the pain of seeing my son suffer because of me. He carried on his shoulders the weight of all mud thrown at me as I stayed and watched quietly on the sidelines. My heart bled for him.”

I’m sorry but my own heart doesn’t bleed from this (melo)drama.


The only person to blame for his son’s crushing defeat at the polls is he himself. He’s right to say that the common analysis of observers is that Jackie suffered from the fallout of the bitter criticism hurled against him. But that merely highlights the fact that Jackie was  ampaw, that he shone on completely borrowed light, that he had no shape and substance and form by and of himself. All of it drew from his father. It was Juan Ponce who gave him blessings to run. Whether tacitly or openly, whether by acquiescence or encouragement, whether by tolerating it or engineering it, doesn’t really matter.


Borrowed light always dims when the source of the light dims. Whose fault is that?

Juan Ponce wants to blame others for his son’s debacle, let him blame the US Embassy. After all, it was US Ambassador William Sullivan who declared categorically that it was Jackie who murdered 19-year-old Ernest Lucas during Ferdinand Marcos’ time. A thing made known to the voters during the height of the campaign by way of WikiLeaks. He can always sue Sullivan or his estate for lying. He can always demand that the US Embassy apologize for the lie. Why doesn’t he?

In fact the only person to blame for his own disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, as Shakespeare puts it, is he himself. He pushed his luck to a point where it ran out.

I’ve said again and again that Juan Ponce is the luckiest man I know. He was at the right place at the right time on two momentous occasions which allowed him to reinvent himself, or make the public forget his role as co-architect, champion, and enforcer of martial law. The first was when he happened to be among the mutineers that People Power rescued from Marcos’ murderous wrath, which allowed him to rehabilitate himself. The second was when he happened to be the Senate president the first time a chief justice of this country was impeached. Which allowed him the opportunity to ride off into the sunset in a blaze of glory.

The first he bungled by leading a series of coups against Cory, not content with having erased a good deal of his past, believing himself instead to be the rightful successor to Marcos. He gambled and lost, and for a while his fortunes plunged anew.

The second he bungled by trying to rewrite history. Or by trying to prove Marcos’ dictum about the “big lie”—which Marcos himself got from Hitler, who defined it in “Mein Kampf” as “a lie so colossal no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” From being an  aso, or issuer of ASSOs (arrest, search and seizure order), he became an Oskar Schindler, rescuing the hapless citizens from Marcos.


He upped the ante by (re)claiming that his ambush in Wack-Wack was genuine, a thing Ramon Montaño, who headed its investigation (and who ran for senator in this year’s elections), peremptorily dismissed.

That was what brought him down. Along with his son’s running for senator and the accusations brought against him by his co-senators, his reputation—particularly his ability to espy the truth, to recognize the truth, to tell the truth—took a dive. It is no small irony that his defeat began at the height of his victory, not unlike Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, another master he served, who fell at the height of her glory. After wangling a meeting with Barack Obama, which represented the pinnacle of her efforts to sell herself as a global figure, she saw her world crumble by Cory dying and sending seismic shock waves her way.

In Juan Ponce’s case, it was at the height of his seeming glory, during his book launching when it appeared he had finally succeeded in altering the past, in revising the past, in reshaping the past, that the beginning of his end came. He had told the big lie, he had sold the big lie. Alas—for him—sometimes big lies only succeed in making the public realize some people truly have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. A cautionary tale, not quite incidentally, for the Marcoses should they try to do more than slink away in the hope that people would forget the inferno they had thrown them into.

No, Juan Ponce has only himself to blame for his current plight. I was tempted at the start to title this column, “Hubris.” But “hubris,” or overweening pride, carries with it tragic stature, a heroic figure striving for heroic ends and failing catastrophically. Juan Ponce does not cut a heroic figure, or a tragic one. All he strove for was to mass-hypnotize the country into believing his self-advancement was its own, his capacity to survive was its own, his oppression was its salvation. That is not hubris. That is brazen, breathtaking, unbelievable:

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TAGS: 15th Congress, Juan Ponce Enrile, nation, news, Senate

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