Sen. Enrile and the RH Bill-A A +A
By Ram Mercado
Sunday, September 18, 2011
SENATE President Juan Ponce Enrile is the reason why the RH Bill has been stymied – with its possible shelving -- before reaching serious action and ultimate approval. He stands out as the lawmakers’ chief defender of life.
He does not feel embarrassed or ashamed of his birth. A love child, his mother was an Ilocano fisherman’s daughter who fell in love with a dashing lawyer, scion of true blue Ponces of Baliuag, Bulacan. He was also a government pensionado in the US.
His original name was Atty. Alfonso Ponce, then Representative of Cagayan. When he ran for reelection the other camp put up a nuisance candidate named Alfonso Enrile. So he appended his mother’s surname, Enrile for distinction.
Atty. Ponce Enrile lost the elections of 1923. While campaigning during the summer of that year, he met and won the heart of a young girl. On February 14 the following year, Petra Furuganan gave birth to Don Alfonso’s son, a Valentine baby. From there, it was a rags-to-riches story. Juanito passed through life’s difficult gauntlet. As a boy fisherman, he nearly lost his life by drowning in the sea. Later, the young survivor could swim two miles out to the sea.
For his early schooling, his mother kept her son as a houseboy in a teacher’s house. He wanted to quit school but the mother was determined that he finish the intermediate grade. Once more he was sent to work as a houseboy to the mayor of Gonzaga town in exchange of sending him to school.
After his elementary studies, there being no high school in Gonzaga town, he was sent to the mayor’s brother-in-law in Aparri who needed a servant boy.
During his second year, a gang of bullies took fancy on the good-looking young man. Suspected of being a threat to the school gang chief for the affection of girl, he was mauled and stabbed with a knife only to escape fatal wounding by jumping out the school’s window. Juanito was not even interested in the girl.
His antagonists belonged to the community’s wealthy families. His family did not have the means to go to court. Not only was a case of physical injuries dismissed, Juanito was also expelled from the school. Realizing the injustice in poverty, he decided to become a lawyer although his first dream was to be an engineer.
The boy’s search of a father ended at the Soriano Building on Escolta. Don Alfonso took him to live with his family in Malabon. Juanito Furuganan was enrolled at the St. James Academy.
Upon high school graduation, his name has been changed and legitimized to Juan Ponce Enrile so he could be enrolled at the Ateneo. There, he graduated cum laude in his pre-law studies (1949). He entered the UP law school. He worked as his father’s secretary during the day.
He was Class Salutatorian. He passed the Bar exams in 1954 with a grade of 91.72%.
The young lawyer was offered scholarship of his choice among Michigan, Harvard, and Yale universities. He chose Harvard where he specialized in corporation law and taxation.
Quijano de Manila from whose feature these facts were culled wrote: “Juanito had become Johnny, the Ponce Enrile who seemed to have inherited Don Alfonso’s mantle as bon vivant.
“His future seemed laid out: a takeover in the family firm, a profitable career in law, a glossy name in society…”
One afternoon while resting at home, Johnny received a phone call from a Constabulary colonel. Soon it was the Senate President on the line.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos said he was coming for dinner at the Enriles.
After a supper of fried chicken hurriedly prepared by wife Cristina Castaner, Marcos and the host engaged in a long dialogue. Not long after he was appointed Finance Undersecretary, the start of a series to appointments to top government departments and as enforcer of martial law.
Before Don Alfonso died in 1967, he told his son, “Take care of your mother, and your brothers and sisters.” The boy Juanito was now a famous celebrity known as Secretary Enrile. He insisted and tried to get his mother to live with him in Metro Manila. She preferred to stay in their village in Cagayan where she sold fish in the marketplace.
Each time Johnny visited her mother and his place of origin, tears welled in his eyes, the fisher folks reported.
He has not shunned the memories of his uncelebrated birth. He was proud of his father. But he was prouder of his mother whose love and guts made Ponce Enrile to what he is today.
When the young Alfonso Ponce impregnated the barrio lass in Cagayan, it was easy and convenient for the rich lawyer to abort the life in her womb. He did not.
Eighty-seven years later, the infant born out of wedlock, holds fort at the Senate as chief oppositor to the RH Bill. Had his father decided to terminate a pregnancy, there would be no Johnny Enrile today.
The ferocity, the passion, and determination of the Sen. President in opposing the Population Control measure is understandable. He knows a thousand angels are cheering him along the way as he swims a two-mile distance non-stop to his final purpose in life.
That is not survival as in the long past. It is a man’s salvation.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 19, 2011.