MANILA, Philippines - Cagayan Rep. Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile slammed yesterday reports reviving allegations of his involvement in a decades-old homicide, saying these were meant to deter him from his campaign for a Senate seat.
“I refuse to be intimidated, I will not be stopped,” Enrile said in a statement.
He also told The STAR that he is “a good son” to his famous father and he has “always been a good public servant.”
Enrile, a senatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and only son of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, was reacting to a WikiLeaks report on his investigation for the murder in 1975 of a son of a former Philippine Navy chief.
The WikiLeaks report was based on classified diplomatic cables sent to the State Department by the US ambassador to Manila from 1973 to 1977, William Sullivan, when the case was being investigated. Jack’s father was defense minister at the time under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Obviously, in the last few weeks of the election campaign, our opponents who do not like us are probably looking for things to raise, and they have been digging up decades-old issues,” Jack Enrile told The STAR at his residence in Makati City.
“They’re trying to distract the public because my commitment for sufficient and affordable and healthy food for all Filipinos, food security, is gaining traction,” he added.
He did not identify who might be behind the “demolition job” against him. But in a statement sent to The STAR, he expressed suspicion that groups out to stop him from denouncing a certain project were responsible.
“There are also reports that this demolition job is being done in order to derail my plan to look into and expose a government project that is highly questionable and grossly disadvantageous to the public,” Enrile said in his statement.
“That this is being resurrected and circulated at this time when I am running for senator is highly suspect. Some well-meaning friends have suggested that I file appropriate cases against those who are using that incident to harass me. But I would rather not be distracted as my conscience is clear and my mind is set on pursuing my advocacies for food security and fair prices for the consuming public to help our people and our country,” he declared.
Enrile stressed, “First and foremost, I'd like to state categorically that I had nothing to do with the incident in 1975 wherein Ernest Lucas, Jr. was killed.”
In his statement, he said, “This matter was investigated by police authorities. Charges were filed, the case was properly heard in courts, and the suspect was tried and later sentenced to 12 years in prison which he served.”
“I was tried and found innocent in court. These are all on public record and the public can look at them and decide for themselves,” Enrile said, adding that Sullivan was known to have a great dislike for the Marcos regime.
“These (cables) were all basically rumors and hearsay and there were embellishments and one thing lead to another but the records will bear me out,” Enrile said in the interview.
He said people during martial law were susceptible to gossip because the press was not free.
Enrile had breakfast with his father at the latter’s residence yesterday and discussed the latest controversy.
“He reassured me. He told me, ‘It’s really like that in politics and expect more of the same. Is there nothing new about my son that they keep on digging up old and resolved issues from the past?’” Enrile said.
He said the “sensational” reports are meant to grab the attention of the public, “but the voters can discern what is true and what’s not.”
Enrile said his public service record speaks for itself.
“I love my father and mother. My father, he imparted his value systems on me. We may have had a rocky relationship but I’m very proud of him. Truth be told, I’ve sown my wild oats, but my father let me seek out my own path in life and let me learn from my mistakes,” Enrile said.
“I hope my God gives me this chance and I believe humility will play a big part,” he said.
UNA, through spokesman Toby Tiangco, also denounced the release of the WikiLeaks report.
“They will resort to all forms of dirty tricks to achieve their target of a puppet Senate. But they will be frustrated by the people,” Tiangco said.
Asked to comment on the WikiLeaks report, US embassy spokesperson Bettina Malone said in an email, “We cannot confirm whether this new tranche of documents recently posted on the WikiLeaks site are authentic, declassified State Department records.”
For Senate President Enrile, the timing of the release of the WikiLeaks report was suspect.
“Why is Jack being hit now? Is it because he is running now for the Senate? That was 40 years ago,” Enrile said.
“I was very sad when I read this again. Jack had nothing to do with his death. Police records would show, Jack was the one assaulted by the four boys from La Salle,” Enrile told The STAR.
The 89-year-old senator also denied accusations that he might have covered up the case as defense minister.
He lambasted Sullivan, saying, “He was doing it to undermine Marcos. That ambassador Sullivan is anti-Marcos.”
Enrile debunked the report in Sullivan’s cable that Jack did not even attend court proceedings in connection with Lucas’ death. The Senare chief said his son was litigated along with Danilo Cruz, Jack’s bodyguard, who was convicted of homicide.
The Senate president said he took a leave of absence after the shooting incident to dispel concerns over the possibility of his influencing the case.
“I told President Marcos about that… I left the government. I went on leave so that the people won't accuse me of trying to influence the case of my son. I got Turing Atienza’s law office to represent my son,” Enrile said.
He said he let his son deal with the case “but the investigators found nothing against him.”
“Jack was charged in that case. In the course of investigation by the police, they found out he had nothing to do with it. Jack was actually the victim. He was assaulted by the Dela Salle boys,” the Senate chief said.
The Senate chief said skeptics and critics should check with the family of the victim. He said he has remained friends with Lucas’ family “before and after” the incident.
“Last time I heard, they had already emigrated… I’m not sure where they are now. You can check with them about their son’s death,” he said.
“The parents of that boy were my friends because one of their daughters, the sister of the victim, was the girlfriend of Jack. They were young students. Jack was at their house. The boy was a La Sallite. The family moved I think to the US,” he said.
Jack was a high school student in Ateneo de Manila at the time of the incident. Enrile said Jack was in a party exclusively for Ateneo students when he figured in an altercation with Lucas’ group whom he thought was trying to gate-crash.
“All they have to do is read the records of the case. If they are interested, they will find the real truth,” the Senate president said.
“Actually, we do not want to dignify this anymore…I don’t want to make a big issue about this… this is precisely what my enemies want to get into the headlines,” he said. “This is being timed by people to hit me at this time.” – With Christina Mendez, Pia Lee- Brago, Jose Rodel Clapano, Rey Galupo