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Short walk to jail

What would they do inside jail?

For Bong Revilla, he would probably spend some time reading the Bible. And of course, he said, exercising—doing pushups, stretching, stationary jogging—so that when he gets out, “I’ll still be cute.” For Jinggoy Estrada, he’ll probably bring his iPad along so he can play games. He proposes to work out as well, such as he can work out in confinement, to keep fit.

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There and then, you see why they seem predisposed to do the things they are accused of doing. An idle mind, as they say, is the devil’s workshop. I’m not knocking reading the Bible, it’s still reading and there’s enough racy stuff in the Songs of Solomon—who says wisdom is to be found in self-abnegation or denying the senses?—to offer Revilla some diversion. I’ll leave the denizens, or citizens, of social media to remark on his  pa-cute remark about wanting to remain cute for when he gets out of jail.

As for Estrada, what else can he do with his iPad but play games? I don’t know that jail offers Wi-Fi among its accommodations, thereby putting Facebook out of reach and out of the question. But the fact that neither he nor Revilla answered that they would be doing a lot of reading (of books) says a lot. Improving their bodies has never been their problem, improving their minds is.

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It was left to Juan Ponce Enrile to say that reading was exactly what he was going to do. When, or if, he is jailed, he said, he would bring “‘The History of Political Theory,’ the book about Nelson Mandela, and a book of poems.” Meant to impress the world about the depth of his literateness or range of interests, he in fact merely sparks laughter with the no-small irony of his answer.

Specifically his reference to “the book about Mandela.” That in fact is Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk To Freedom” which was turned into a movie last year. The tome is a magnificent one starting from Mandela’s boyhood in a small village to his election as the first postapartheid president of South Africa. It deals at great length with his incarceration for 27 long years and the heroic spirit, or spiritual heroism, that sustained him there.

There are some similarities between Enrile’s and Mandela’s life, which is probably the reason why Enrile proposes to bring Mandela’s book with him to jail. He figures he will find himself in the company of kindred spirit. Like Mandela, Enrile studied law, though in his case he finished it while Mandela did not, failing in his final year after spending too much time in politics. Like Mandela, Enrile wrote his own biography, detailing the twists and turns of his life. Like Mandela, Enrile has had a long life, Mandela living up to 95 and Enrile, now at 90, threatening to do the same.

One is tempted to say, that’s all the similarities they have, but even those similarities are not really similarities at all, they are contrasts. Mandela might not have finished law, but he was as quintessential a lawyer as Thomas More, giving new heights and reverberations to the majesty of the law. Enrile might have been a full-fledged lawyer, but all he did was give new depths, and embarrassments, to law, turning it into an instrument of, and for, martial law.

Mandela wrote his life story, telling the world about his dreams and sacrifices, his loves and struggles, his—and his country’s—long walk to freedom. Enrile wrote his life story, or had it written, telling the world, after having denied it before, that he had really been ambushed in Wack-Wack.

Mandela lived to a ripe old age, deeply beloved by a people he had set free. When he himself was sprung free, a country erupted in wild cheers and made him president. When he died, the world wept. Enrile has lived to a ripe old age, deeply scorned by a people he had helped Marcos imprison. When he gets to be jailed, his country will erupt into wild cheers and make of him an example. I will try my best to practice Christian charity and not say anything about what the world will do when he leaves this earth.

In fact, Enrile need not bring his own copy of “Long Walk To Freedom,” hard copy or digital, to his cell, he can always borrow the copy of the presumed subversives currently detained in various camps. Maybe even the copy of

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Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, which will probably contain heavy and quite instructive annotations at the margins. They are the ones who may genuinely reckon themselves to be in the company of kindred spirit.

It is one thing to be jailed for being a revolutionary, it is another to be jailed for being a crook. It is one thing to be jailed for unwavering principle, it is another to be jailed for the wayward lack of it.

In the end, if Enrile will have shown anything, it is only that a long life is a guarantee only of justice finally catching up with you. And catching up with you when you least expect it. I’m surprised Miriam Defensor Santiago hasn’t come out to gloat at the precipitous reversal of fortune her nemesis has suffered in but a couple of years.

Only a couple of years ago, Enrile cut a grand figure in judicial robes, presiding over the impeachment trial of no less than a chief justice, using all his lawyerly skills to steer it to inestimable heights. Now he cuts a miserable figure in the company of Jose Flaminiano, who gives a face to what Philippine law is all about, a thing that exists to thwart justice—as it was quintessentially during martial law!—pleading to be kept out of jail on grounds of old age. You looked at Enrile in the TV coverage, and you could truly feel the weight of his age.

In lieu of “Invictus,” Mandela’s favorite poem, which says, “My head is bloody but unbowed,” there is the Bible written all over it. Which says:

And the exalted will be humbled, and the humble exalted.

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