The secret to Enrile's staying power
Juan Ponce Enrile, 88, has been a senator since 1987.
Taking into account two terms when he wasn’t elected he has sat in office a total of 17 years. He is now on his fourth term.
He has been Senate President for only four years – since November 17, 2008. Perhaps before that his fellow senators didn’t want to entrust Enrile, long linked to coup plots, with such a powerful position until he became safely old.
Even so, managing to stay as Senate President for four years is still a feat. That ranks him the third longest-serving official in that post since 1987, after Senators Franklin Drilon and Jovito Salonga.
He has made good on his election campaign slogan – Gusto ko happy ka [I want you to be happy].
He has kept everyone at the Senate happy – from the janitors to the senators in the minority bloc.
Lately, though, the Senate has been awash with reports that some senators were no longer happy with his leadership. Enrile has dismissed this as a “silly rumor” but said he was ready to stand aside anytime.
Later, I will discuss why this is likely to happen sooner than later.
But first, let me explain the peculiarities of the Senate Presidency.
The position is notoriously unstable: a Senate President is elected when he obtains 12 votes of his fellow senators, in addition to his own vote. The average shelf life of a Philippine senate president is one to two years only. The holder of the office has no fixed term and can be replaced anytime.
And for this reason, using the word “coup” to describe a turnover is not legally correct. Because a coup denotes an illegal removal. The media uses the term anyway because it’s shorter and more headline-grabbing.