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...the United States for the first time? What kind of impression did it make? Actually, when I got to the United States, I was looking back to that period in our history when I met American GIs during the war. What I saw there in America is really something else because the first area that I hit when I arrived in your country was Seattle, Washington. It was a country of pine tree. It was a city of pine trees then, and this was the month of July. It's pretty warm during that time in Seattle. Then from there, I went to Portland, Oregon and then to San Francisco. From the GIs that I encountered during the war, they were talking about cable cars and I saw the cable cars in San Francisco
and then they talk about earthquakes and here is the place where this big earthquake happened. Then I took a greyhound bus from San Francisco across the United States and I saw the deserts and the big lakes in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I ended up with a family in Davenport, Iowa, a corn region of your country. Then I came to Chicago at night and I stayed in a small YMCA rooming house downtown and this was my first time in your country then I proceeded on all the way to New York in the big city and they talk about subways when I met this GI since here it was. So I saw a great country with such vast way of economic life that was unheard of in my little corner of the globe. From there I proceeded to Boston where I waited for the opening of classes at the Harvard Law School
and then while I was waiting for this opening, I went around the Harvard yard. I went to the college of liberal arts of the Harvard College and I saw these huge libraries, the Widener Library... Then as I said, I was waiting for the opening of school classes so I spent my time going around the Harvard Yard and went to these huge libraries with fabulous collections of tapes that you can listen to without bothering anybody. Then classes started and I met new friends, I met people from different parts of the world. But one thing that impressed me was the fact that here is a country so vast and yet in many ways so unpopulated in other parts, but in other parts was so full of people.
One thing also that I discovered was that not all Americans were very rich, just like they portrayed them in the movies or in some magazines. Some of them were just as ordinary as we were in the Philippines and while I was at the Harvard Law School, I met students coming from middle and lower middle income groups of America but very competent students. I also equally discovered that not all Americans were as brilliant as some people thought they were. Now, since the Philippines have been an American colony, did you feel home in America or did you feel like a foreigner? No, I never felt any difficulty adjusting myself with the American students that I live with. In fact, when they asked me at the Harvard Law School whether I wanted to stay alone in my room, I said no, I would like to room with somebody,
and a room with a guy from Pittsburgh, Samuel Bass was his name. I tried to contact him after we left law school every time I got to the United States. I was never able to get in touch with him but I know that by now he must be a well-known lawyer in his corner of your country. But anyway, as I said, I never felt any strangeness in your country. Do you think that is because of this being Filipino, having been Americanized, having had a kind of an Americanized education? Well, maybe not. I was probably more fortunate than others in the sense that while I grew up in a rural area when I came to Manila to study for my high school, I was taught by American sisters, Maryknoll sisters. They were my teachers and so I was able to acclimatize myself to some American way of dealing with people.
Let's go on now to [how] you're getting involved in politics and particularly with the Marcos Administration. How did you get involved with them? Actually, my involvement in politics was some kind of an accident. When I came back from the United States after my schooling at the Harvard Law School, I was made a partner of a law firm in the Philippines, which was actually the successor of the Coudert Brothers Law firm in Manila, and we have many American clients. During this period, I was very busy with such companies like Castle and Cooke, Dole Philippines or Dole of Hawaii. At one point, the United Fruit Company came to be my client and many others, I was servicing American banks, and then in the course of my lawyering for this company, a special indication of United Fruit and Dole Pineapple,
there was an investigation conducted by the Senate of the Philippine Congress regarding the entry of these two big agricultural enterprises into our national economic life. I was the lawyer, so I appeared in these congressional investigations and defended them, and it was at this point probably that Mr. Marcos was then the Senate President noticed my person or my name because I was in the papers every day during that period, and then one night, he called up my house and asked to visit with me. So I saw him that night and he asked me if I could join his political staff because at this point, he was trying to seek the nomination of the Nationalist Party, to which I belong as a candidate for President of the Philippines in the coming election. This was in 1964 and the election was in 1965. So I joined this political staff on a part-time basis.
From then on, I got associated with him and so when he won the election in 1965, I decided not to see him anymore, but then he invited me to join the government and I joined with other young men then and I got hooked and I stayed on. Now, could you give us your perception of President Marcos? As a fellow human being, President Marcos, I think, is someone that you cannot complain about when you work under him. He's very considerate, very courteous, very respectful of the rights of his fellow workers. He is intellectually capable, very sharp mentally. Although, in a sense, he will treat you on a need-to-know basis, always. In my case, in the beginning, I was quite fortunate in the sense that I was perhaps closer to him and to his inner group than most people.
I was given some assignments that were really very difficult to handle publicity-wise, but somehow I was able to handle them properly, and that's how I went into the political ladder. As an administrator of government, he is an able-administrator. The only thing that one could possibly say about him is that most of the time, he uses practices that are not really what you may call proper to people who may not want to use a Machiavellian system of doing things.
Could you spell that out a little bit? Well, for instance, if he is dealing with a problem, he will befriend you and I remember what he said, Johnny, because he called me Johnny, "You should be, you should stay as close as possible to your enemies. But not too close to your friends." What about, as a person, you're talking about him as a politician, as an individual, was he someone, did he get along... Oh, he's very charming. He likes to play golf, he likes to do some sports like water skiing, pelota, horseback riding. You know, we play with him. As he is a very charming person, he can crack jokes, he has a good sense of humor. But then, as I said, he will deal with his friends only up to a certain point, as far as his person is concerned. There is no total openness or transparency.
And her? Well, I was not that close to Mrs. Marcos. Although, in the beginning, she was the one who insisted that I would join the government along the way somehow. She probably did not like me that much to be close to her. Well, none of this is a secret. [inaudible] But what are your perceptions? What was she like? What drove her? She was driven, certainly. I would say this, that in the beginning, our impression of Mrs. Marcos, when I say ours, I am referring to my group, the non-politicians who joined the Marcos years, in the beginning, our impression of her was that she was such a simple person, very good-looking woman, and who was there simply to help her husband attain his ambitions.
But, along the way, I think it was sometime after the election of 1969, when she started to get involved, or a little bit before that, she started to get involved in the political life of the husband, like selecting who should be candidates for this or for that position, and who should get involved in this or that position in the bureaucracy, and then after 1969, there was a gradual transformation of this lady [from] a simple person to a complicated political personality until 1962 [Enrile meant 1972], when it became a very apparent that she wanted to become already much more than just the first lady. You said '62, you meant '72, could you repeat that?
No, but as I was saying, from the start, she was just a simple person, but then gradually there was an observed transformation of her personality from simplicity to one of complication in the sense that she was getting involved in politics much deeper than we thought, and she was selecting candidates for this or that position or appointees to the positions available in the bureaucracy. Then, after the presidential election of 1969, this trend becomes much more pronounced until 1972, when it was clearly apparent to us that she was really preparing to run for the presidency in 1973. Well you said [Ferdinand Marcos] was shrewd. He was a perceptive man.
Did he want her to do this? Why did she assert herself like this? I think the president, talking of President Marcos, was actually grooming his wife to be his successor and trained her to be his successor. He's a shrewd man. He's a career politician. Does he honestly think that she's capable of running the country? Well, I do not know. I could not possibly give you certitude in that. I'm not privy to the way he really thinks or the way he thought. I suppose he must have adopted the thought that with him there, he could still run the country through her and hurdle the limitations imposed on the Constitution, where the president is limited to an eight-year term.
When you look back on those first two terms... To be honest and fair to President Marcos, one cannot say that everything he did was evil. There are many things that he did for the country. For instance, the infrastructure that we have in the country today, the road system all the way from [inaudible] to Davao, was the product of his effort, the self-sufficiency in rice, or food grains for the Filipino people, was the product of his effort. The rural electrification of the country was also the product of his effort. The establishment of our power system now was the product of his effort. But there were also wastes that were committed by him and by his wife,
and these are the things that we see now, the Cultural Center and the Convention Center and all of these centers that have been established during his time, which require the outlay of our scarce monetary resources. But some of this even are now useful to the present government. You know, the country after the election of 1961 started to... Sorry could you start again? You said '61, you meant '69. Yeah, 1969. As I was saying, after the election of 1969... After the election of 1969, the country started to have a peace and order problem. Mindanao was affected by rebellion led by non-Christians and Christians against the Muslims.
We also have the beginnings of terrorism in Central Luzon by the remnants of the Huks or Hukbalahaps. Then we know that there was an emerging group of ideologues which later on became the core group of the Communist Party of the Philippines and they were organizing themselves at that point. Then apart from this, the problem in Mindanao was escalating because by 1971, a new group known as the Moro National Liberation Front was building and in fact, we knew that there were trainings going on outside of the country for the creation of military force to challenge the authority of the country.
We were watching this and the problem of the red flag and the crescent started to really escalate in the country, and the economy was not doing well, the economy was controlled by what he called the oligarchs and he wanted to reform the economy, and because of all of this combination of factors, the emerging disorder in the land and the anarchic condition of the country at the time and the desire to really bring about land reform and reform the oligarchy condition of the society. These are the factors that, in my opinion, impelled President Marcos to proclaim martial law
and as far as we were concerned, we were convinced that it was necessary at the time to step off the emergence of a bloody situation in the country and above all to really reform the society in such a way that we can accelerate the economic and social development of the nation. Now, there was a growing amount of violence...You said that your ambush was staged. Well, actually, this ambush was done by the group of Ver, but it was not necessary to justify the... Could you go back and tell the story of what happened? Did they persuade you to participate in this or stage the ambush? I'd rather not discuss this. I would not want to discuss this. But you did mention once that it was...
Yeah, but I do not want to discuss this anymore. All right, but... I hope that you will not include this in this anymore. I do not want to discuss this. Let that be a matter of history. But you're not telling us what happened. Just that it was staged. It was staged by them, but they notified us before then. We did not know what was the purpose. I hope you will keep your commitment that you will not include this. We won't use it because you're not saying enough to use... But there was real violence, too. During the ambush? No, no. Other things... Oh, there was. There was. There was no question about it. There was violence in Mindanao. You're in Manila, for example. Oh, yes. There was violence in Manila. There was violence in Manila. There were bombings in Manila.
Although some say, and I do not know this for a fact, that some of these bombings were actually staged manage. I cannot say with certainty that this was so. But one thing is that there was real violence in the streets of Manila. You see then thousands of people parading in the streets, demonstrating, waving the red flag and very obviously, these people were actually controlled by a group to do these things. Not for the love of it, but for a specific purpose of destabilizing the government and the society. Are you suggesting this was a Communist group? Definitely. There's no question about it. This was a time when they were waving the red flag and shouting the name of the late Mao Zedong.
Immediately after martial law, or the period after martial law, months after, years, if you want. Did you... I that period, were you... Were you confirmed in your belief that martial law was necessary? Yes. What was the state of the country after martial law? Actually, after martial law was declared, we went to the process. After martial law was declared by Marcos, we went through a process or a period of collecting the armaments in the hands of the population. and we anticipated to collect not more than 100,000 firearms and to our great surprise, we collected more than 600,000 firearms during that period.
One must admit that the proclamation of martial law by Marcos, President Marcos in 1972, brought about stability in the land. It brought about a new sense of direction by the nation. But this was dissipated afterwards. After 1974, the whole thing went out of line and we went back to the old condition again. Could you elaborate on that a bit? What went wrong? What began to...Why did it go wrong? Well, at that point... [vehicle honking] After 1974, the powers of government were actually taken away from the military and brought to the civilian sector of the government
and corruption started to set in. Travel privileges were being sold by some bureaucrats, openings of newspapers were being peddled. Grants of radio or television franchises were being sold, and then even the rights of non-citizens and non-residents to become citizens or residents of the country became a subject of commercial transactions, and then, at this point, you see the emergence of a new group of moneyed people who were supposed to be the subject of reformation by virtue of which martial law was proclaimed. But we were hoping that these are just aberrations and that we will be able to go back to the original purpose of the proclamation of martial law
but it never happened that way. Marcosm and this is Marcos... It's very hard to ask Marcos what went wrong because he doesn't think anything went wrong. Neither can I give you a concrete information. As I said, something went wrong and everybody seemed to accept that. The president adopted a constitution which later on was allowed to remain unimplemented partially by not convening the lawmaking body and he exercised the powers of lawmaking. I think this is the one of the basic flaws of the period where the presidency did not allow or coordinate the department of government like the legislature to operate.
When the executive power and the legislative power were concentrated, in the hands of one person, in the person of the president, then evidently arbitrary powers sat in, and so with that arbitrary power, the road towards abuse and absolutism and corruption was not far off. Yeah, also one thing that was happening during the period was that the armed forces were actually more than 200,000. No. The highest we have gone was about 157,000. But you have to bear in mind that during this period, after martial law was declared, I think about two months afterwards, what we anticipated as a source of bloodshed in Mindanao happened
and this was the start of the Moro National Liberation Front war. We had to implement a recruitment program to increase the strength of the armed forces of the Philippines contend with and respond to the problem in Mindanao. Now, one thing that seemed to be happening also during this period is that the armed forces, at least the office [inaudible], is becoming more and more political, isn't it correct? Not really. In the beginning, the military organization was a very disciplined organization. It was only after 1981 Or in 1981 that it started to become affected by internal politics because of the fact that promotions during this period was more based on whom you know rather than what you know. But before 1981, the people who were handling the military organization, the leaders of the military organization were professional soldiers
and in fact, without them, I suppose the problem in Mindanao would have been a mishandle, and it was only because of these men and their skills and capabilities that we succeeded in staving off dismemberment of our republic during that critical period. Now, after 1981, as the military leadership becomes more and more political, as you said, the generals... And you were the minister of defense, how does this begin to affect you? Who's in control? The one in control was the president and the chief of Staff, the secretary or minister of defense, was made simply as an administrator. At that point, I stayed on in the department because of my people in the military who did not want me to leave because they would be exposed to possible retaliations
and so I stayed on and this led to the explosion in Edsa on February 1986. Well, we'll get to that in a minute. But we hear from some of the people that were loyal to you, as far back as 1981, that these people, they rally, began to form groups, they began to train you put in British advisory groups, they began to train. You put in British advisors, could you describe some of that? When General Ver became the chief of staff, he was a different kind of a person. He wanted the loyalty more than know how, as a basis to select people to handle sensitive jobs in the military. So he recruited people who were loyal to him and the president to handle the important positions in the government in the military organization, which brought about the deterioration of the discipline and skills of the military organization in the end.
We were resisting this and we were also trying to maintain the professionalization of the military organization. But because of this conflict of attitudes and policy direction, they decided that we should not get involved in the handling of the military in terms of promotions and so forth. Other than to recommend the president or be channels of recommendation, and that's how it went. So as a consequence of this, some of the elements in the military organization who saw this to be a growing weakness of the military organization and possibly an eventual source of its own destruction, approached me and asked me if they could join some groups who were already thinking of
the future condition of the military. So I said, sure, go ahead. And this was the beginning of the formation of groups like the Reform the AFP Movement. Now, in order to help them in their training and preparation for what they wanted to do, they asked me if I would authorize the entry or the recruitment of two British ex-military men to help them train in anti-terrorism activities and so I said, yes, sure and they brought these two guys and they trained some of our elements in Quezon province.
Actually, what we thought was that the Congress would still remain in place, but that we will operate under a martial law condition with a certain degree of adherence to the Bill of Rights. But eventually, we saw the contradiction between these two concepts. After the proclamation of martial law, President Marcos called the members of Congress, to Malacañang and I was present in this meeting and I explained to them that both the executive under martial law and Congress could not coexist. So, therefore, he said, "I will have to close Congress in the meantime." And the two departments of government that remained were the judicial department, the Supreme Court all the way down to the lowest court and then the presidency.
What prompted...I'm taking you up to the events of 1986. We were seeing the evolution of events in the country from the time Aquino was killed at the Manila International Airport all the way to the period of 1984-'85. We felt that if a man like that could be killed in our society in such a fashion, then no man of any consequence is safe, especially when you are perceived to be challenging the authority of those in power. To protect ourselves, we decided that time has come for us to prepare for the worst. And in that preparation, we develop our own thinking of what we are going to do, including the time tables. And this culminated in the explosion of February 1986.
Now, I'm not going to give you the details of this. I will just tell you that someday I will write about it and I'll give you the details in that book. Well, just let me ask you one question. We don't even want the details. [inaudible] Everyone has the right to write their own book. Were you pushed into action or did you make a decision to stage whatever you want to call it? Actually, the thing would have happened much sooner than 1986 were it not for the snap election. So that actually this claim that we did it because we were cornered is not true.
Because there was already a commitment to really do something about this situation in the country then, with or without Mrs. Aquino. Mrs. Aquino, as far as we were concerned, was simply a historical accident. Excuse me. So you said the thing would have happened. Could you say we would have moved against Marcos or not? That's right. We would have moved. You would have staged a coup d'état against Marcos? Not me, but the young officers in the military organization. Could you restate that? With or without Mrs. Aquino? [asked to start again] With or without Mrs. Aquino, what happened at Edsa in 1986 would have happened sooner were it not for the intervention of the announcement by President Marcos of snap election because the younger elements in the military organization could no longer stand for the practices that were happening in their organization then.
As far as we were concerned, Mrs. Aquino was simply a historical accident. The whole thing. We had no need for her to stage what was staged in 1986. If there had been a coup d'état against an overthrow of the Marcos regime, do you think that was plausible? Do you think that would have incurred, for example, opposition from the United States, would have complicated things? Don't you think it was... As far as the group planning this effort, they never considered the thinking of America. America was never in the equation. As far as the group was planning that effort, America was never in their equation. There was never any thought of considering what America may want or not want at that point.
And that's the perception narrative that you agree with, you share that? Oh yes. Why should as far as we were concerned, we never considered the interest of America. We were acting on the basis of our perception of what was good for the country and for no one else. We were only dealing with Philippine interest and not the interest of any other people or country. I'd like to pursue this [and] get your kitchen perception of Philippine relations with the United States. I think that first we have to admit that America brought to us what we consider now as "democracy."
We can debate the question of whether we have the real democracy in the Philippines or not. Many people would disagree with you that when you say that we have real democracy others will say no, we do not have that much. That kind of democracy that we would want. Now the second thing that America did for us is the system of public education. They brought to us the system of education which today has benefited many of us and which has universalized the capacity of the Philippines to think and to emit ideas. But on the other hand there were also burdens that have been imposed upon us over the years. We have become dependent on your country as far as our economy is concerned,
we have become dependent on your country as far as our security conditions are concerned, and whether we like it or not we are tied up with you by the accident of history because you have occupied us for some time. Therefore this kind of a situation cannot but present to diverse groups, different signals and different emotions. And I think that today this relationship is undergoing a very major examination. To a point that you will probably see in this country very strong voices of dissent against the continuation of your military bases, your military presence here. Of course there are also equal strong voices that would probably say well we should have them because they have been our friends and they have helped us during periods of adversity, and we are tied up with them economically but others will also say that well precisely because of that that we should get out of it because we will not be able to walk alone or stand alone for as long as Uncle Sam is holding our hand.
What do you think? As far as I'm concerned I think that we should reexamine the relationship and to the extent that it can be modified for the better we do it. That's a pretty vague statement. I will tell you that as far as I'm concerned at this moment I am also reexamining my thinking about our military and political relationship. Of course I'm only one in the Senate representing the opposition but in time we will probably spell out a position with respect to our security relationship with the United States.
In my dealings with your people in the United States I've always taken the position that while we are enjoying some degree of protection by your presence in our country, on the other hand we are equally suffering a very heavy burden because if you have enemies those people become necessarily our enemies even if they are our friends because of our mutual defense treaty with you. If you go to war with any country then necessarily we are drawn into that war which is not our own making or maybe over which we have no control simply because we are tied up with you. And then that's why I said at this point in time I am trying to reexamine my position in this because as a Filipino I'll have to think of the interest of my country more than the interest of your country. You have enough capability to think about your own interest and you do not need a man like me to think about your interest. I have to think of my country first.
What is your concept of the kind of society or system the Philippines would have? You used the word democracy... I do not believe in that. Actually I do not believe in a presidential type of government. I believe in a parliamentary type of government and the more I study our national condition I believe that the system that was transported into this land by the Spaniards which was continued by the Americans when they came here in 1898 and by the Philippine Commonwealth when we have our transition government under the Tydings-McDuffie Law and then pursued by the Republic after independence when you finally gave us political independence where the government controls all the powers of government. The national government controls all the powers of government and only delegates so much to the local government [and it] is not conducive to our kind of
People and society. We should now reexamine this and adopt a more relaxed, more diffused system of government, not a centralized form of government, not democratic centralism just like the people in Moscow or Beijing say about it but a federalized system that is what we are advocating. A federalized system not of the American type but maybe an eclectic type drawn from the experience of Switzerland, West Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia, Malaysia in our part of the world. Many people observed that one kind of system that would be even more difficult to control...
It is precisely because of that diversity that we need. It is precisely because of the linguistic diversity, cultural diversity and the fragmented character of our national topography that we need a decentralized system of government where you have a compact territory, which you can reach by ?AC? system of communication like road system. Maybe a centralized unitary type of government would be acceptable and proper but when you have a fragmented country like us where the communication amongst the people is difficult not only in terms of physical communication but linguistic and cultural communication, I think you need to allow the people of diverse cultural and linguistic orientation and condition to decide their own future, their own development, their own way of doing things, their own way of governing themselves. Are you any closer to the truth about who killed Ninoy Aquino? Do you have any idea?
I have no idea. Let the courts decide that. One last point. Again, we are not going to be on the air 'til next year. So I don't want to deal in day-to-day politics but, and I know that you are in the opposition [inaudible] How would you evaluate the Cory Aquino administration? Do you think, there are positive things it achieved and what do you think are the things that are wrong with it? They have achieved the formalities of a democra... [asked to start again] the Aquino government succeeded in reestablishing the forms and possibly the physical structures of a democratic society but I doubt whether it has established the substance of it. Second, the government after two years of existence and after two years of holding the powers of government in the land has not succeeded in shaping up or formulating a national agenda that would...
Can I interrupt you for a minute? Can you restate that without saying after two years because at the time we are on the air it maybe three years? After two or three years of governing the country, the Aquino government does not present to the nation and to the world a vision of what it wants this country to be. It has no economic and social agenda to speak of and it is faced with a burgeoning insurgency problem not only in Luzon, not only in the Visayas but equally in Mindanao and not only coming from the Marxist group but equally from the Islamic-supported group, and yet it has not devised or formulated a coherent, comprehensive, implementable counter-insurgency program to deal with these internal threats to the stability of the "democratic government."
So therefore I say that this government of President Aquino which is supported by the American people and the American government is simply a government of improvisers. They do not have an honest to goodness concrete national agenda, let alone a vision of what our country ought to be in the next ten years or maybe twenty years.
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In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines
Raw Footage
Interview With Juan Ponce Enrile
Producing Organization
Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Pearson-Glaser Productions (Kittery Point, Maine)
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Raw Footage Description
Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile was a former member of Ferdinand Marcos' presidential cabinet and lawyer. Enrile explains that while he was initially in support of the Philippine martial law due to the "anarchic state" of the country, he felt compelled to contribute to a planned coup d'etat due to the inability of martial law to better the condition of the country. Enrile offers his opinions on Imelda Marcos, observing her increasing involvement in politics throughout the Marcos administration, and speculates that she was being groomed by her husband to be the next president. Concerning Corey Aquino, Enrile states that her rising popularity which eventually led to her becoming president was not the intention of the coup and that it was a historical accident that resulted in an administration unable to resolve the growing insurgency crisis of the Philippines.
Asset type
Raw Footage
Decentralization; Insurgency; Imelda Marcos
Media type
Moving Image
Interviewee: Enrile, Juan Ponce
Interviewer: Karnow, Stanley
Producing Organization: Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Format: Betamax
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