Aquino allies with former foe
The labyrinthine nature of Philippine politics was on full show yesterday as President Benigno Aquino forged a political alliance with his assassinated father's former jailer and saw his late father's lawyer join the opposition.
Juan Ponce Enrile, administrator of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos' 14-year military rule, won the Senate presidency by 17 votes to three on Sunday after President Aquino's Liberal Party candidate withdrew for lack of votes and the party instead threw its support behind Enrile.
Aquino and key party members met Enrile on Saturday, after which presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda issued a statement saying: 'We look forward to working and co-operating with a friendly Senate. It's important that we have a friendly Senate [for] our legislative agenda.'
Upon his election yesterday, Enrile - who is now second in line to replace Aquino, should he be unable to discharge his duties - vowed to 'uphold the independence and integrity of this Senate ... without abandoning our duty to co-operate with other departments of this government'.
Enrile's ascension was a boost for ex-president Joseph Estrada's Partido ng Masa Party as a power bloc.
Estrada lost the presidential election to Aquino by a wide margin, but his party won senate seats for Estrada's vice-presidential running-mate Jejomar Binay, Estrada's son Jinggoy, and Enrile. Yesterday, Jinggoy Estrada won the number two post in the Senate. But Aquino lost a family friend and his father's lawyer as a political ally. Senator Joker Arroyo - who is not related to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo - refused to back Enrile.
It is not known how long the Aquino-Enrile alliance will last, and history has shown such a relationship to be fragile. In 1986, Aquino's mother, Corazon, was forced into a political embrace with Enrile after the latter defected from Marcos' camp. But she soon accused Enrile of masterminding coup attempts against her; in one such attempt, young Benigno Aquino was shot in the head and nearly killed. Enrile was never convicted of involvement.
Neither Aquino nor Enrile have issued any statement regarding their new alliance.