Juan Ponce Enrile


From Edsa to Senate

enrileWhen the 15th Congress opened on 26 July 2010, Senator 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.

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 practiced law for 12 years (954-1966) 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 (1956-1964).

In January 1966, recognized for his expertise in tax matters, he was appointed Undersecretary of Finance. 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 and revised many of its rules and regulations to make 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 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.

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 (1992-1995).

In the legislature, 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 Filipino 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 Enrile’s advocacies involves a review of the performance of the power sector as 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, he passed a bill to discourage the formation of cartels and to curb the manipulation of the prices of basic commodities. Recognizing the need for security and the protection of civilians in the aftermath of the September 11tragedy, the senator also 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 andwas 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), A 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, 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 defense minister for many years, the senator sponsored 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 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 the 14th Congress, Enrile chaired the Committee on Finance, during which he shepherded the timely passage of the annual general appropriations act.

Under his present leadership, 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, were passed. 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 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.

Even as Senate President, Senator Enrile really works for the people’s welfare!