MANILA – Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, the country’s oldest lawmaker, on Monday took the podium, not to debate, but to bid goodbye to the chamber which he served for 27 years, capping his more than 50 years of public service.
“My esteemed colleagues, this will be my last day to visit this chamber because when we adjourned at midnight today, I shall have closed my public service to the nation for more than half a century beginning in January 1966,” the 92-year-old Enrile said in his valedictory speech during the sine die adjournment of the 16th Congress.
Enrile, one of the brilliant minds in the Philippine Senate, served more than 20 years in the executive department, handling the financial and justice system and the security of the country under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
“And all those years, Mr. President, I tried my best to serve the people because I felt that my call to the service was something that I never intended in the first but I was impressed to the service of the people and as a consequence, I thought that it was a mission for me to do,” Enrile said.
Enrile, fondly called by his friends and legislators ‘Manong Johnny’, won his first term as senator in 1987, a year after cutting ties with Marcos that eventually led to the ouster of the former strongman through a bloody people’s power revolution.
After serving as House representative of the first district of Cagayan from 1992-1995, Enrile served three more terms as senator: 1995-2001, 2004-2010, and 2010-2016.
“I spent 27 years, four terms in the Senate where we discussed very delicate and important measures, in fact, in all the welfare of this nation especially in security,” Enrile said.
Enrile also served as Senate president from 2008-2013. It was during his term when the late Renato Corona was impeached as Chief Justice.
“And so, looking back, Mr. President, I would like to thank all of my colleagues and all those people that worked with me and beg their forbearance and understanding if in the heat of debate, I somehow helped them unwittingly or displeased them,” Enrile said.
The veteran lawmaker also thanked those who supported and helped him in the Senate and the Filipino people for giving him the opportunity, privilege and honor to serve them.
“Like what McArthur said: old soldiers never die, they just fade away. I would say today, my last appearance in this chamber: old politicians never die, they will just fade away. My head was bloodied but never bowed,” he said.
Enrile’s term as senator was marred with controversy in 2014 when he along with Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. was charged with plunder for allegedly receiving Php172 million kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In August 2015, the Supreme Court (SC) granted the petition for bail of Enrile, allowing him to finish his term outside detention.
In previous interview, Enrile said he will go fishing and farming in his hometown in Cagayan province after his retirement from politics.
The Senate approved Senate Resolution No. 1754, commending Enrile for his “exemplary contribution and service” to the nation.