Wednesday’s verbal clash between Philippines Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Minority Leader Peter Allan Cayetano make one wonder if the former has pushed his envelope too far after reinventing himself as an elderly statesman who redeemed his bloody past following the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Enrile conducted himself very well as presiding officer of the impeachment court, leading others to forget and forgive the biggest sin of his past – as the feared and powerful administrator of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule.
Some media institutions even dignified his own version of history by publishing, then later promoting, a book which supposedly chronicled his memoirs, including a justification of his role in one of the darkest periods of our history. Not contented with his regained glory, Enrile even threatened to publish more, to the consternation of those who suffered the most during martial law.
Old habits die hard, however. Wednesday, Enrile reverted back to his old petulant ways, dispensing favors as he pleases and getting them back when displeased.
So when the Christmas gift-turned maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) exploded right in his face, he was back in his old element: a grouchy and grumpy old man who resents any questioning of his authority.
Enrile however got a determined challenge from Cayetano who took an implied swipe oat the Senate President’s extra-marital affairs.
On live TV in front of millions of Filipinos Enrile exposed himself as a collector of dispensed and past political favors and financial debts. Beneath the statesman figure he likes to project is a mean and cantankerous autocrat who can get so low he will disrespect the memory of the dead.
The smug smirk on his face when Cayetano delivered an unprecedented privilege speech and the reaction he unleashed revealed an unrepentant despot who survived several political upheavals solely because of his cunning and the reluctance of past presidents to go after those who engineered the killing, torture and disappearance of freedom-loving Filipinos – communists or otherwise.
Enrile may have survived them all. He may have his day in the sunshine with all the books he intends to write. He can enjoy his revisionist folly. But down political and memory lane, history will be the better judge. History will not be written today. Certainly not by him.