Exclusive by Raïssa Robles
In February 1986 when Juan Ponce Enrile thought he might die, he made a public ‘Act of Contrition’ where he revealed that the 1972 ambush of himself that had been used as a pretext for declaring Martial Law had been faked.
As a result, people’s distrust of Enrile melted and they came by the thousands to protect him from the wrath of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who planned to have him arrested and imprisoned in Corregidor, if not shot.
I personally heard Enrile say his Act of Contrition on nationwide radio.
Beyond this, I had no other proof – at least until this weekend when I found in my personal archives a copy of the March 9, 1986 Asiaweek magazine, a weekly. This edition hit the newsstands the week after the 1986 Edsa People Power.
Reporting for Asiaweek then, journalists Antonio Lopez (now owner-publisher of BizNewsAsia), Lisa Beyer and Luninging Salazar jointly filed a story entitled Four Days that Ended an Era, which chronicled in detail what had happened from February 22 to 26, 1986. On page 32 of this particular Asiaweek edition, they wrote of Enrile’s stunning public declaration that the ambush on him, which Marcos had cited as one of the immediate reasons for justifying the imposition of Martial Law in 1972, was FAKE.
Not only that, Enrile also publicly said that his February 22, 1986 defection from Marcos was his ATONEMENT for that lie of an ambush. It was his way of saying “I’m sorry” to the nation.
Here is a portion of the Asiaweek article that contains this:
Last month, however, Enrile TOOK IT ALL BACK in his newly published memoir and said reports quoting him as calling his ambush “fake” were all idiotic and malicious. In his memoir, Enrile says of that February 22, 1986 press conference with foreign correspondents:
Another question to me was: Did I stage and fake my ambush to justify the declaration of martial law? I said, “No! I did not!”
This canard has been spread around for so long such that it has gained acceptance as the “truth”, no matter how much I tried to correct this patent falsehood.
As I have earlier said, there was no need for me to do that to justify the declaration of martial law. There was no need for other facts to justify the imposition of martial law. Proclamation No. 1081 of 21 September, 1972 recited fully and faithfully all the facts that President Marcos needed and used to justify the declaration of martial law in the country.
I drafted and prepared the documents that President Marcos used to declare martial law. I checked the facts contained in those documents. I had no doubt of their authenticity, veracity, and sufficiency to support and justify the declaration of martial law. Those facts were more than enough to justify the declaration of martial law.
The incessant claim that I staged and faked my ambush to justify the declaration of martial law was simply and obviously a malicious and idiotic effort to attack and defame me.
Besides, when my ambush happened, the order of President Marcos to place the country under martial law was already delivered by me to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the military operations to implement the order were already on-going. In other words, ambush or no ambush martial law was already an irreversible fact.
What could have prompted Enrile to retract
I read Enrile’s memoir with an eye to looking at what he thought was important to what was not. And how he described certain events.
It’s a fascinating read.
What struck me was the number of pages he devotes to clearing his son, Congressman Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. or Jack, from the long held accusation that actor Alfie Anido was murdered by bodyguards of his son Jack (also known as Jackie).
Enrile blamed the report on his late rival, military chief General Fabian Ver:
To create the impression in the mind of the public that Jack had something to do with the death of Alfie Anido, General Ver unleashed his attack dogs to fish for evidence against Jack. Naturally, they found nothing because the rumor that Jack killed Alfie Anido was a pure fabrication.
No doubt, the only purpose of those who spread that false rumor was to besmirch my family and destroy my reputation rather than to solve a crime for there was no crime at all. That was how vicious my foes were. But I made sure that they would not succeed in their dirty scheme. I gathered the facts to their utter embarrassment. Still, my foes would not stop.
Enrile devotes two entire pages on the Alfie Anido case and mentions how Alfie had physically abused his daughter Katrina.
In contrast, he makes absolutely no mention of the 1986 and 1987 coup attempts against the late President Corazon Aquino wherein he was implicated, along with his senior aide, then Lt. Col. Gregorio Honasan. In July 1986, for instance, Marcos’ defeated running mate Arturo Tolentino proclaimed himself “acting President” at Manila Hotel and said he was not only retaining Enrile as “National Defense Minister” but also appointing Enrile as the “Prime Minister” so he could “continue the fights against the communists without any interruption.” [Source: The Final Report on the Fact Finding Commission, quoting "Tolentino Courts Sedition Charges," Philippine Daily Inquirer 7 July 1986, page 6.]
I was hoping Enrile would explain his side on what the Fact Finding Commission led by Hilario Davide (who later became a Chief Justice) wrote about him in its Fact Finding Report. On page 479, Davide together with Commission members Professor Carolina Hernandez, former poll chairman Christian Monsod, businessmen Ricardo Romulo and Delfin Lazaro wrote:
Enrile and the RAM-HF (Reform the Armed Forces – Honasan Faction) apparently did not give up their original coup intentions even after the EDSA Revolt and President Aquino had assumed office. He formed an elite group, a battalion purportedly organized to counter hijacking and other terrorist activities, in his capacity as chairman of the National Committee on Anti-Hijacking (NACAH). Honasan headed the group. although it aroused the suspicion of several high-ranking officers, nothing was done about it until after November 1986. He also recommended to the newly-installed President Aquino the designation of his trusted aide, Col. Tirso Gador, to head the Presidential Security Command (PSC).
Now let’s put this side by side with what Enrile says in his memoir about his 1972 ambush:
The attack was so sudden that it caught everyone by surprise. No one in the convoy was able to fire back. My official car was ditched on the right side of the road. Its left rear door was riddled with bullet holes, and its left back tire was punctured and disabled. Luckily, my driver and my military aide, Tirso Gador, who was seated beside the driver, were not hurt.
Hmmmm. He describes Gador as his military aide who was in the car that was ambushed in 1972. What was his purpose for trying to place Gador right inside the presidential palace?
Unfortunately, we can no longer ask Gador due to his untimely death on July 22, 1986. According to the Orlando Sentinel:
Col. Tirso Gador, who played a key role in the revolt that toppled President Ferdinand Marcos, drowned Tuesday. He was blown into Manila Bay when he and six soldiers parachuted from a helicopter. Two soldiers also were blown into the water, but they survived. Gador led the first soldiers to declare support for Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and military chief Fidel Ramos during the February revolution that drove Marcos to exile and installed Corazon Aquino as president.
The same Fact Finding Report stated that in the November 1986 ‘God Save the Queen’ plot,
The attempt fizzled out without any shot being fired and without any casualty but for Enrile whom President Aquino unequivocally and decisively removed from the Cabinet. Unfortunately, Honasan and company were allowed to go free and none of them was even formally investigated.
The Fact Finding Commission also obtained a video from international broadcasting network CNN of a press conference conducted by the Nacionalista Party on December 2, 1989 at Hotel Intercontinental at the height of the most serious coup attempt against President Cory Aquino which laid siege to Makati City, the heart of the country’s financial district then. By that time, Enrile was a Senator of the Republic.
Here was a senator giving a press conference at Makati City’s Intercon Hotel while rebel soldiers were taking control of the area. The soldiers, whose leaders were known to be close to Enrile, did not at all take Enrile hostage even though a senator would have been a prize catch at that time.
The Commission concluded, after watching the video of Enrile’s press conference:
Insofar as the portions of the videotape with the Commission shows, not only did Enrile blame the government for the coup attempt, but like (Vice President Salvador) Laurel, he failed to condemn the coup participants or call upon them to lay down their arms.
I had hoped that Enrile would discuss his version of the rebel siege of Makati and the other coup attempts previous to that.
Enrile did write:
Because I was the lone oppositionist and the burden of fiscalizing the administration’s policies and actions bore heavily on my shoulders, I was unfailingly accused of plotting coups and implicated in every attempt, real or imagined.
Everything came to a head after the November 30, 1989 coup. It failed like the others but it was the most serious one launched against Cory and it almost brought her down from power.
But that was all he said of the 1989 coup attempt which yanked the recovering Philippine economy to be a bottom-dweller once more.
I also eagerly looked at how Enrile regarded the late dictator Marcos who had given the nation much grief. Although Enrile severely criticizes the dying days of Martial Law in his memoir, he describes Marcos as “my elder brother”. He also glosses over the gross human rights abuses and makes no mention at all of the grand plunder undertaken by the Marcoses of the people’s money.
Interestingly, he always refers to Martial Law as “martial law” – which in itself is an eloquent statement of how he feels about it. It’s as if he’s saying it was really no big deal, what’s the fuss all about.
Which brings me to my conclusion, which of course is pure speculation on my part.
I believe Enrile’s memoir has a two-fold purpose. One is to tell his rags to riches, powerless to powerful story.
The other is to defend his son, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jr. – otherwise known as Jack or Jackie – from accusations of murder that are sure to come out during next year’s poll campaign. In short, it serves as the launching pad for Jackie Enrile’s campaign for senator.
I also noticed that during the book launching, no less than the matriarch of the Marcos family – Congresswoman Imelda Marcos – was present.
I will not be surprised if Jack Enrile wins big in Ilocos Norte.
My hubby Alan recalls that during the 1987 senatorial campaign, Juan Ponce Enrile personally went to Ilocos Norte and publicly apologized to the Ilocanos for his betrayal of their Apo, Marcos. Alan remembers that a Manila Chronicle newspaper reporter who happened to understand Ilocano was there covering at that time and he wrote about Enrile’s apology.
This book may well be Enrile’s way to placate the Marcoses further by offering a revisionist view of Martial Law. It is even kind to Imelda Marcos whom Enrile had seen as his most potent rival to the presidency in case the dictator Marcos died.
Enrile’s memoir glosses over the extravagance of Imelda Marcos which he had criticized behind her back before.
Still I’m glad Enrile wrote his memoir. It truly unveils his character and what he thinks of the Filipino people.
You can read below the Asiaweek piece, Four Days that Ended an Era, which quotes Enrile as saying he was making his ‘Act of Contrition’. To get a large view, click on the bottom-right icon that says “full screen”.