MANILA - In his memoir, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile described his former boss, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, as “hard to fathom.”
“Marcos was reflective, stoical and generally restrained. He seldom gave himself away. He kept his feelings from everyone, even to his closest friends," he said.
Enrile projected Mr. Marcos almost saintly, compared to how he described former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
An example is Enrile's account of how Imelda supposedly made top security officials wear skirts, bras and dance the hula after the declaration of martial law.
From fear to fearless
A week after Marcos was publicly humiliated during his State of the Nation Address on January 26, 1970, protesters once again violently showed their growing displeasure of the government. These were all part of the so-called First Quarter Storm.
Militants threw Molotov bombs and rocks towards Malacañang while the Marcos family was probably cowering in fear inside. Marcos’ generals were not around.
“It was hours before military troops arrived to protect Malacañang. This made President Marcos very uneasy and chagrined,” said Enrile. The usually “stoic” Marcos, for the first time, showed fear, Enrile revealed in a documentary about his life.
Later that evening, Enrile was only one of the few people left in Malacañang while Marcos and his family immediately left and evacuated to a navy vessel in Manila Bay.
One thing led to another, until Marcos finally declared Martial Law.
On the morning after it was declared, Enrile saw himself going to the Palace to finally face the music. It was the First Lady whom he first met when he ascended the steps.
Imelda told her, “Ang dali pala ng ML. Kagabi, si Kokoy (brother Benjamin Romualdez) at ako, hindi mapakali. Punta kami nang punta sa banyo.”
Enrile could only smile, thinking Imelda really did not know the many sleepless hours and effort put into it.
Like how Imelda felt, Enrile also recalled how martial law “brought sweeping and dramatic changes” to society. He said law and order were restored.
But a month into its implementation, Enrile said he already saw the “kind of capriciousness and arrogance of power that would infect many of those who were with President Marcos in the palace after martial law was declared.”
Imelda threw a “grandiose” party. Invited were her “Blue Ladies”, politicians, businessmen, actors and actresses and diplomats.
“Then there was a lull, and I saw the First Lady walk to the microphone. With a naughty smile, she asked the military to contribute its share to the festivity,” Enrile said.
One by one, the top military officials stood up and left to prepare: the then Chief of the Philippine Constabulary General Fidel V. Ramos, Armed Forces chief Gen. Romeo Espino, Philippine Army chief Gen. Rafael Zagala, Phil Air Force chief Gen. Jose Rancudo and Philippine Navy chief Admiral Hilario Ruiz. After a while, they reappeared with Gen. Fabian Ver, Marcos’ right hand man.
“The six generals were all attired in artificial straw skirts and high-heeled shoes. They had garlands around their necks and they were wearing bras…Their lips were painted red with lipstick,” Enrile said.
Generals dance the hula
As expected, Imelda and her retinue laughed with delight, but Enrile remembered some of the guests getting uncomfortable while the generals “wiggled and sashayed…with their hands raised and rolled above their shoulders.”
For Enrile, the scene was “pathetic, ridiculous and disgusting.” He said he could not comprehend how top military officials could be made the object of a joke by Imelda.
Still, the scenario represented a different fact, Enrile said.
“It seemed to me that the First Lady wanted to impress her guests that she was that powerful—that even under martial law, everyone, including the generals of the military, would kowtow to her whims.” For Enrile, it was a very haunting picture.
Imelda’s relationship with Gaddafi, MNLF
That day could have started the disdain that both would later feel for each other. All throughout the years of Martial Law, Enrile claimed he remained loyal to Marcos. He said, however, that there were those around the chief who were already trying to poison his mind.
On Imelda's outbursts, Marcos could only tell Enrile: “Do not mind your ma’am. Just do your work.”
Enrile said Imelda eventually became “the main factotum, the Jack of all trades” of Marcos. A dominant figure feared by everyone, she eventually became part of the shaping of the nation.
She also became influential outside the country. She wined and dined with kings and powers that be, including the Libyan dictator himself, Muammar Gaddafi.
Unknown to Enrile and the Department of National Defense, Imelda quietly sneaked to Tripoli in November 1976 and made an agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The secret negotiation was called the Tripoli Agreement, which Enrile said was Imelda’s handiwork. It called for an establishment of the “autonomy” in the south.
“After I went over the agreement, I was full of anger and frustration. To me, the Tripoli Agreement was not only an illegal and unconstitutional act, but also a shameless and abject surrender to the MNLF,” Enrile said.
He called the agreement a deceptive one, much to the chagrin of Imelda. “Now and then, she would move her well-coiffed head from side to side with obvious disdain for what I was saying.”
Enrile said, however, that Marcos was still sharp-minded. Then and there, the President called up Gaddafi and told him Imelda would seek for a revision of the Tripoli Agreement.
Enrile, Imelda goes to Libya
In Libya, the Philippine delegation finally met with Gaddafi. Enrile and Imelda were also accompanied by other officials including then Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.
The meeting turned sour, however, with Gaddafi giving Enrile the dressing down. Enrile had explained the need to amend the Tripoli Agreement.
Gaddafi went livid. Later, Imelda would tell Enrile to immediately leave the country because the Libyan dictator was not happy with him.
The impasse was only resolved when a plebiscite was implemented in Mindanao.
The disdain that Imelda felt for him, however, contributed to his estrangement from the Palace.
Imelda as president
In time, Imelda became a power in her own right, Enrile said. “Her political power was no longer just brushed on her or owed her by President Marcos.”
Still, Enrile said he was considered then an “insolent,” the only one who answered back and contradicted Imelda.
When Enrile learned of the junta plot that Ver was supposedly going to throw at Marcos, thoughts went through his head. Despite Imelda’s political dreams, however, Enrile thought she was never part of the junta.
“Knowing her desire and eagerness to succeed President Marcos, I was certain that she would have raised hell against General Ver…had she known that she will sit as president only for six months,” Enrile mused.
Nonetheless, that estrangement eventually forced Enrile to leave the boss he had served for decades and join the People Power that put into power Cory Aquino.
On the day of the book’s launch, Imelda was only a few seats away from Enrile. Despite their history, Imelda was present along with other actors that Enrile mentioned in passing, though in a negative way, in his book.
It was an unusual sight last Thursday that Imelda was not her usual flamboyant self.
Perhaps, she did not know then that she would be among the “stars” of Enrile’s memoir.
"Juan Ponce Enrile, A Memoir," is published by ABS-CBN Publishing and is available in National Book Store branches nationwide.