The 50-year old lie of Juan Ponce Enrile


I witnessed it. Countless others heard it on radio. The date was February 23, 1986.

Fidel V. Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile held a press conference announcing their historic break from the ruthless regime of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. For Enrile, the dictator’s martial law administrator, it was a tell-all. He confessed before the world that his so-called ambush on the eve of September 23, 1972 when Marcos publicly announced the imposition of martial law was faked.

It was his Act of Contrition.

There is no point in bringing out Enrile’s disavowal of that ambush in the voluminous book he published in 2012, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir.” Retractions do not have probity value in court when it can easily be demolished by expert testimonies such as those of an eyewitness and a seasoned scene-of-the-crime investigator.

On September 22, 1972, Marcos had already signed Proclamation 1081 placing the country under martial law. But this was kept secret as the dictator needed one more event that he believed would convince the Filipino people – and the world – that the country was on the brink of anarchy. That special operation was the surprise attack on Enrile, his secretary of national defense.

The ambush took place on Notre Dame Street inside Wack Wack Subdivision in Mandaluyong. The script’s pretext had Enrile on his way home to Dasmariñas Village in Makati in a three-car convoy after attending a military briefing at Camp Aguinaldo. It was evening.

Let us go directly to the eyewitness testimony of what had really happened.

Unfortunately for Enrile and Marcos – was it sheer miscalculation on their part? –the site of the ambush happened to be right outside the residence of Oscar Lopez (of the Meralco, ABS-CBN, Manila Chronicle family). Lopez had published his account in a 2000 book, “Phoenix: The Saga of the Lopez Family.”

“Our driver happened to be bringing our car into our driveway at around that time, so he saw the whole thing. He told me there was this car that came by and stopped beside a Meralco post. Some people started riddling it with bullets to make it look like it was ambushed. But nobody got killed or anything like that. My driver saw this. He was describing it to me,” he wrote.

Lopez and his family were home and had heard the burst of gunfire.

But that was not all that happened that night. A close Enrile general who had directly participated in the investigation of the incident made an important revelation in 2012. At the time of the ambush, General Ramon Montaño was reporting directly to Marcos henchman General Fabian Ver and was part of the team called to investigate the scene of the crime (segment beginning 1:45).

Montano said the alignment of the bullet holes was suspicious since any ambush using an automatic weapon would result in bullet holes “all over the place.”

“But it was neatly aligned and very clear,” he pointed out.  “I have done so many investigations in my life. I have for so long stayed in the criminal investigation business and I know at first glance which is fake and which is not fake.”

By what standards did Montaño stand in debunking Enrile? He was one of the military officials who joined Enrile in breaking away from the chain of command during the crucial moments of the Edsa revolution. His testimony stood on upright reliability. He  had heard the Enrile Act of Contrition on the fake ambush.

By saying now that the ambush was real, Enrile – who is now presidential chief legal advisor of the son of the dictator he betrayed and helped topple — stands on very flimsy ground. It is not even worth quoting from his book.

“I did not finish reading that book. It was full of lies,” Montaño said in 2013.

Juan Ponce Enrile is one of the biggest liars ever to undignify the annals of Philippine history. He did not only lie for Marcos. He was the chief architect of martial law and oversaw the worst human rights violations during those dark years.  An unrepentant man is a dangerous man. Dangerous men who are a menace to society’s security and an indelible blot to history belong to jail.

Such man is Juan Ponce Enrile.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.