Up close and personal with JUAN PONCE ENRILE-A A +A
Sunday, June 17, 2012
FILIPINOS saw Juan Ponce Enrile, president of the Senate of the Philippines, at his widely publicized “finest hour” conducting the impeachment proceedings against then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. But what is he like up close and personal?
HE COME across as a very simple man who does not care for designer labels, with a firm sure voice one would have thought as coming from a man much younger than his 88 years. A simple man with a love of country that has propelled him to where he is now, and a love of family that hopes to see his son, Juan “Jackie” Ponce Enrile Jr., follow in his footsteps.
Asked the secret to his longevity, Senate President Enrile first puts on his hearing aid, then answers that he has no special regimen. He attributes his good health to the fact that when he was younger, he was very active and into martial arts and sports.
At age 30, he started to play golf. He does taekwando, runs and swims. He explains these activities slow down his heart rate. As for his diet, he eats anything, but his basic diet is simple, mostly vegetables like ampalaya (bitter gourd), saluyot (jute), malunggay (moringa).
For relaxation, he “hits some balls” or reads books using a magnifying glass or reads poems. He particularly likes the poetry of Rudyard Kipling and Omar Khayyam. He reads Khayyam, he explains, “to help me understand the Bible.”
As for his love life, he says: “Like a rolling stone… you encounter people, but you have to keep your commitment to the person you married. I have been married to the same woman, Cristina, for 56 years. We have had our ups and downs, but we managed to solve our problems.”
They have two children, Jackie and Katrina, and eight grandchildren. He corrects: “Make that two children, six children and eight grandchildren”—no, not what you think—he explains: “I adopted legally four of my grandchildren, two each from Jackie and Katrina.”
Unable to talk at length on mundane matters, he spoke in Cebu last June 12 about his work in the Senate; how he opposed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which he wants amended; how he wants the coconut levy fund to be used for the benefit of the coconut growers, and its interest, for the infrastructure improvement of the country; and why he is sponsoring a “survival” fund or adaptation fund in the wake of climate change.
Growing more serious, he talked about what he considers his best achievements. The first is the conduct of the impeachment trial for which he reviewed the laws as well as read three books on the subjects and examined all the articles of impeachment. This was why he was able to conduct the trial with a firm hand, sure of his rulings.
The other achievement was his role in the 1986 Edsa revolution. He had served then president Ferdinand Marcos for 20 years, and it was painful to make the decision he finally made to break away from him and declare his support for Marcos’s rival, Corazon Aquino. Enrile says it was not Marcos but the people around him who were taking the country into a downward spiral. He had to make that stand in Edsa, he confesses, mainly for the country, but also for a personal reason: had he not done so, he is sure he would have been killed.
Going back to family, Enrile said he has served the country since 1966 and that 2016 will be his last year in office.
“I hope my son, Jackie, who has been congressman of Cagayan for four terms, will be able to join me now so I can show him the ropes, so to speak. I have treated the younger senators as my own children, helping them, especially the non-lawyers, acclimatizing them to the work of the Senate which requires legal knowledge. I am happy to see them acquire the confidence to join in debates, to deal with issues.”
With all the work he has to do in his Senate office, how does Senator Enrile get away from it all? Does he go abroad?
No. He doesn’t travel out of the country, he reveals, for he is labeled a “terrorist” by some countries. So confirmed Jackie, who said his passport has the annotation that he is not the same Juan Ponce Enrile as his father!
Senator Enrile does go back to the place of his birth, Santa Ana, Cagayan Province, 640 kilometers from Makati City, every month “to get away from everybody. I love to walk in the mountains, in the seashore.”
There, where his life began, he can truly be the simple man that he is with simple pleasures.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 18, 2012.