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The usual victim of injustice

column-Cecilio T. Arillo-DATABASETHE title aptly describes the sad and vexing experience of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the Harvard-trained lawyer, who led the 1986 Edsa Revolution that swept to the presidency the mother of President Benigno Aquino III.

In 1990 Enrile was imprisoned without bail on a nonexistent crime of “rebellion complex” filed by then-Justice Secretary and now Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, after Enrile criticized President Corazon Aquino for:

1) Abolishing the 1973 Constitution, under which she took her oath of office and ran the country under a dictatorship.

2) The wholesale release of the ranking members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Light-A-Fire terror group.

3) The massive graft and plunder in her government.

4) Scrapping the Ministry of Energy and the subsequent privatization of the energy industry that saw the dissipation of multibillion-peso assets and the subsequent increases in oil prices and electricity rates.

5) Saying that “the Constitution has been violated, laid aside or ignored in many decisions of the President. The laws have been set aside whenever their execution would affect those orbiting around the President. The full force of the law is exerted only when and if those involved are perceived to be political enemies or sympathetic to the opposition.”

6) The failed move to allow American forces to again occupy Clark, Subic and other US bases in the Philippines, an issue which is again the subject of current debate that arose from the proposed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and in which Enrile has again consistently showed his anti-bases stand for, he said, “reasons of history, national sovereignty, political independence, national security, and sound domestic and foreign policy.”

7) A litany of other issues on political, social, economics and national security that affect many people today, and whose details will not fit even in another 300 more columns.

Exactly 29 years ago today, Enrile found himself again in a similar, but in a worst, situation, this time accused 16 times of a nonbailable and bailable offenses, using the same body of evidence, one case of plunder and 15 cases of antigraft.

Last Tuesday, after more than a year in prison at a hospital in Camp Crame and deprived of his lawmaking rights and oversight functions as an elected senator, the Supreme Court (SC) en banc finally granted his petition for bail of P1 million for plunder and P30,000 per count of antigraft cases, or a total of P1,450,000, after the prosecution failed to explain before the justices as to when, where, how and why he committed specifically the crimes of plunder and corrupt practices act.

Enrile’s lawyer, Joseph Sagondoy, said they posted the required bail so the lawmaker can again perform his duties and responsibilities as a senator.

“We greatly appreciate having our father back in our home and in our care. It is our intention to help him through the defense of his honor and decades of serving his most beloved country,” said Jack Enrile, the senator’s only son.

He added: “The Supreme Court has once again demonstrated its wisdom and abiding commitment to justice at a time when our country is rife with political maneuverings.”

In May 2001, in President Arroyo’s time, Enrile was also indicted for no specific offense by the police and the military for the unsuccessful siege of the Palace by pro-Estrada forces. He was released a day later. He ran for reelection as part of the opposing coalition and lost; many believed he was cheated just like his son, Jack, in the last senatorial election.

In 2004 he ran again for the Senate under the banner of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino. He actively campaigned against the imposition of the Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA) on consumers’ electric bills, and continued to criticize the government for this erroneous policy.

Due to his persistent stand against the PPA, the SC ordered a multibillion-peso refund in favor of the consumers. The public responded positively, guarded his votes and elected him for three nonconsecutive terms.

Now at 91, with a remarkable physical stamina and a sharp memory, Enrile is the oldest senator of the 16th Congress and is affiliated with the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, also the party of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, his co-accused in the plunder case.

It is obvious that the people doing the cruel job on him are obsessed in trying to silence him by putting him in prison the rest of his life, as reflected by the number of graft and plunder cases filed against him without realizing that they cannot imprison his mind and his legacy.

Besides, the issues Enr i le brought forth are the same pestering problems that are still valid today. In fact, many of these issues have remained unresolved and have worsened with the passage of time, particularly the country’s energy and national-security problems, as both have correlations to the country’s degenerating economic situation, in particular, and the country’s national survival in greneral.

What is unsettling is that if this can happen to Enrile, Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., how much more to ordinary people?

To reach the writer, e-mail cecilio. arillo@gmail.com

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