Upon the opening of the Fifteenth Congress on 26 July 2010, the honorable JUAN PONCE ENRILE was elected unanimously by his peers to the third highest position in the country, the Senate Presidency, a position he is now serving for the second time. He is now on his fourth term as Senator.
Juan Ponce Enrile earned his Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines in 1953. He graduated cum laude and salutatorian. He took his oath as a member of the Philippine Bar in 1954. He ranked No. 11 among the successful bar candidates with a rating of 91.72%, one of the highest in the history of the Bar. He made a perfect score of 100% in Commercial Law. He took post-graduate studies at the Harvard Law School where he obtained his Master of Laws degree in 1955, specializing in taxation and corporate reorganization.
He practised law for twelve years from 1954 to 1966 as a law partner at the Ponce Enrile, Siguion Reyna, Montecillo, Belo and Ongsiako Law Offices. He also served as a Professor of Law at the Far Eastern University - College of Law from 1956 to 1964.
In January 1966, the young Enrile began his career in the public service which would last for more than four decades. Recognized for his expertise in tax matters, he was appointed Undersecretary of Finance at the beginning of 1966. Shortly thereafter, he was made Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Philippine National Bank. Then he was designated as a concurrent Acting Head of the Insurance Commission. As such, he revised many of the rules and regulations in the Insurance Commission with the end in view of making the industry more transparent and stable. As proof of its relevance, many of these rules and regulations issued during his incumbency are still included in the current Insurance Code. He also served as Acting Commissioner of Customs until December 1968. While he was in the Finance Department, he was appointed Acting Secretary of Finance and concurrent Chairman of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of the Philippines.
In December 1968, in recognition of his integrity and reputation held before the Philippine Bar, Enrile was appointed Secretary of Justice where he served until February 9, 1970.
On February 10, 1970, he was appointed Secretary of National Defense until August 1971 when he resigned to run for the Philippine Senate. He was re-appointed Secretary of Defense in January 1972.
In 1986, he led the historic EDSA People Power Revolution that served as model for subsequent bloodless revolutions all over the world. Together with idealistic members of the military and with the support of the Catholic church, people flocked to EDSA in solidarity to the man and his vision of restoring democracy to the nation.
His first term in the Philippine Senate was from 1987 to 1992, during which he served as the lone Minority in the Senate. His second term was from 1995 to 2001, during which he was designated as Chairman of the Committees on Ways and Means, and Government Corporations and Public Enterprises. He also served in the House of Representatives from 1992 to 1995.
In the legislature, Senator Enrile focused his efforts at refining fiscal measures to make sure that the government's need for revenue is balanced with the protection of the masses from undue tax burdens. He was the author of Republic Act No. 8424 also known as the Comprehensive Tax Reform Law, which exempted Overseas Contract Workers from paying income taxes in the Philippines on their income earned abroad. In the same law, his recommendation that homeowners be exempted from the payment of capital gains provided they invest the proceeds from the sale of their homes in buying or constructing other homes for themselves was also approved. He also sponsored the provision in the law exempting all Filipinos residing abroad from the payment of Philippine income tax on their income earned abroad. In the previous Tax Code, the same income was taxed in the Philippines even if it had already been subjected to tax in the foreign jurisdiction.
One of the Senator's advocacies involved a review of the performance of the power sector. Senator Enrile believed that there was a need to refine the process of computing electrical charges to make the industry more efficient and to help households from being charged with inordinately high electric bills. For this reason, the Senator was very vocal in his criticism of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act. When the bill was submitted for voting, he cast the lone dissenting vote on the grounds, among others, that the EPIRA law, which institutionalized the imposition of the Purchase Power Adjustment (PPA), would subject the ordinary users to unnecessary increase in rates.
Cognizant of the Constitution's prohibition against the formation of monopolies, Senator Enrile initiated an Anti-Trust Bill as a means to discourage the formation of cartels and to curb the manipulation of the prices of basic commodities. Also, recognizing the need for security and the protection of civilians in the aftermath of the September 11-tragedy, the Senator filed the Anti-Terrorism Bill. His Senate term ended in 2001.
In 2004, inspired by the people's confidence in him, he sought to run for senator once again and, with an overwhelming vote, he was elected to the 13th Congress. He immediately resumed pursuing his major advocacies for consumer protection and reforms in the electric industry, as well as in our revenue system. Among the first bills he introduced were: the Anti-Trust Bill, Amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), increasing the tax exemptions of individual tax payers and other revenue-related measures.
He was active in plenary debates and was constantly vigilant over vital pieces of legislation taken up on the Floor, such as the Sin Taxes (RA 9334), Expanded Value Added Tax or EVAT (RA 9337), Biofuels Act (RA 9367), Amendments to the Automated Elections System (RA 9369), and the General Appropriations Act, among others. Rarely was a bill passed into law without being scrutinized and examined by Senator Enrile.
To fulfill his campaign promise "Problema Mo, Sagot Ko!", Senator Enrile meticulously studied and filed a bill proposing major amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). Since he cast the lone negative vote against EPIRA in 2001, he wanted to pursue his advocacy for the protection of electric power consumers against unjust and unreasonable power rates. He was eventually designated as Sub Committee Chair of the Committee Energy to facilitate committee consideration of the amendments to EPIRA.
One of the most important pieces of legislation acted on by Congress was the Anti-Terrorism Bill. Having filed the original bill in 1995, and having been the Defense Minister for many years, Senator Enrile was requested to take over the sponsorship of the measure on May 22, 2006. After going through long and tedious deliberation, this measure was later signed into law as the Human Security Act of 2007.
Faithful to his vow to expose and oppose any program or measure that he believes to be inimical to national interest, he delivered speeches inquiring into the status of the tax credit scam, on the anomalous banking transactions of the Standard Chartered Bank, and on the present state of the insurance industry, which became the bases for investigations conducted by the appropriate Senate committees. Furthermore, as a member of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, he participated in the inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the anomalies that have been taking place in Philcomsat and Philcomsat Holdings Corporation.
Senator Enrile assumed the chairmanship of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights following the re-organization of the Senate when the Third Regular Session began. Without fail, and characteristic of his dynamic and pro-active disposition, Senator Enrile immediately conducted committee work and facilitated the passage of these measures: 1) An Act Strengthening the Office of the Solicitor General(R.A. No. 9417); 2) An Act Reorganizing and Strengthening the Public Attorney's Office(R.A. No. 9406) ; and, 3) numerous corresponding bills for creating additional branches of trial courts in various areas nationwide. Other measures that were subjected to committee consideration includes: An Act Defining as a Crime the Act of Driving any Motor Vehicle while under the Influence of Alcoholic Beverages and/or Prohibited Drugs; An Act Providing for the Payment of Survivorship Benefits to the Spouse of a Deceased or Retired Justice of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals; An Act Adopting a Salary Schedule for the Members of the Bench and other Lawyers in the Judiciary; and, An Act Providing for the Retirement Benefits of the Judiciary.
Also in the Thirteenth Congress, Senator Enrile was designated as Vice Chairman of the Committees on National Defense and Security, and Banks, Currencies and Financial Institutions and a member of 15 other standing committees including Foreign Relations, Blue Ribbon, Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, Public Order and Illegal Drugs, among others. He was also the Chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Commission on Appointments.
In the Fourteenth Congress, Senator Enrile was elected as Chairman of the Committee on Finance, during which he shepherded the timely passage of the annual general appropriations act.
Backed by the support and trust of his peers in the chamber, Senator Enrile as the Senate President on 17 November 2008. In all humility, he accepted the responsibility entrusted to him, saying that “To lead the Senate with its great minds, strong advocacies, varying and independent political beliefs and leanings, is not an easy task. But it is precisely this variance in points of view and the battle of great ideas that provide the dynamism we need to craft legislation that takes into account and balances the competing interests involved – with the end in view of serving the greater good of the people to whom we owe our mandate.”
Under his leadership, the Senate passed vital pieces of legislation such as the CARP Extension, Anti-Torture Act, Expanded Senior Citizens Act, Anti-Child Pornography Act, National Heritage Conservation Act, Real Estate Investment Act, among many others. Institutional reforms were also implemented within the Senate to improve the daily conduct of business by the institution, as well as improve the welfare of its officers and employees.
Also under him, the Senate also collaborated with the House of Representatives on two crucial issues which are now considered historical milestones. First was in December 2009 to take up Proclamation No. 1959 of the previous administration, declaring a state of martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao, while the second occasion was in May 2010, when Congress convened to constitute itself as the national canvassing board to canvass the votes for president and vice president, and thereafter proclaim the winners.
For his exemplary service to the country and to the Filipino people, he was chosen as a “People of the Year” Awardee by the People Asia Magazine in January 2011.
Now on his fourth term in the Senate, and on his second term as Senate President, Enrile promised to discharge his duties and responsibilities with honor, with total devotion to the Philippine Senate as an institution, and with fairness to all members. He has, at all times, upheld and asserted the independence and integrity of the institution he has chosen to serve.
Faithful to his promise, Senate President Enrile, without fear or favor, boldly took on the role of Presiding Officer of the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court to try and decide on the impeachment case of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. At his age of 88, he has presided over the impeachment court with the same level of legal astuteness, brilliance, and, thoroughness as he did as a trial lawyer in his younger days.
In his Opening Statement at the start of the impeachment trial, Senate President Enrile reminded his fellow Senator-Judges that “it is our obligation and responsibility to closely and diligently examine the evidence and the facts presented before us, to determine whether such evidence and facts sufficiently and convincingly support the charges, and ultimately, to decide the fate of no less than the Chief Justice of the Highest Court of the land, and the head of a co-equal branch of our government.” He also forewarned that, “the conduct of this trial and its outcome will necessarily have a serious impact on the entire nation. Its success or failure to achieve the purpose for which the Constitution has provided this mechanism as part of our system of checks and balances and of public accountability, may spell the success or failure of our democratic institutions, the strengthening or weakening of our sense of justice as a people, our stability or disintegration as a nation, and the triumph or demise of the rule of law in our land.”
With those words and by his example, Senate President Enrile continued to blaze new trails in Philippine legal history and rekindled the faith and hope of the people in the Philippine Senate.