Enrile, his wife Cristina, and his affair with Gigi Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – "They say that I was separated from him. No, I was never separated from him. He just lives in another house," Cristina Castañer Enrile, wife of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile (JPE), told Solita Monsod in a rare one-on-one interview in her Bawal ang Pasaway Kay Mareng Winnie program that aired Monday night, March 2, on GMA News TV.
Cristina spoke of her continuing "affection" for one of the country's most astute politicians who is now in the middle of an alleged multi-billion pork barrel scam, the latest of controversies that have hounded JPE's long political career. (READ: At 90, Enrile a bundle of contradictions)
There were no fireworks when JPE and Cristina met in a party in Caloocan where they lost a dancing game because they couldn't keep a calamansi in between their foreheads.
It was years later, when Cristina had returned from the US, that JPE courted her. She was 18 when she married the rising lawyer, a Harvard graduate who was 13 years her senior.
"I respected his brains.... I respected his knowledge of life and everything. I found him attractive because he is a very bright person. That is what I wanted to get married to, a man with brains," Cristina told Monsod.
Cristina recalled how she had to go to Divisoria to make do with the P300 monthly budget JPE was giving her because he was supposedly saving for a house in the posh Urdaneta Village in Makati City.
JPE's affair with Gigi Reyes
But JPE started having affairs just 6 months after Cristina gave birth to their first child. She tolerated these affairs and blamed the girls who threw themselves at him. It was never the case that JPE sought them out, she said.
But there was one affair that stretched her limits and made her pack her bags and talk to lawyers to seek a divorce. It was JPE's affair with Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, his longtime chief of staff who recently fled the country after she was also dragged in the alleged multi-billion pork barrel scam. (READ: 'The Boss' and Gigi Reyes)
"I had heard that she was already too long. He has had many girls before Gigi but they don't last too long. With Gigi, it lasted long. Somebody told me that it's not only this time but more years that you don't know. That's what got me...," she said.
"So I said it's useless for me to be always tense in my house. I was always having that anxiety. Masamang loob mo palagi," she added.
It's possibly the first confirmation of the affair, an open secret in political circles for as long as the 90s, but was repeatedly denied by JPE.
Monsod asked if she met Gigi Reyes. Cristina responded: "Yes. Only one time."
What happened? "I would rather not say," she said and laughed with Monsod. "It was not nice," Cristina continued.
Monsod pressed. "You gave it to her?" She answered: "Well, yes." Monsod laughed again but Cristina didn't. She continued to say: "I decided na mag-alsa-balutan (leave) and try to get a divorce."
A US newspaper, Chicago Tribune, caught this political drama 15 years ago, in 1998.
"Enrile is not the president, but his alleged tryst with a top aide prompted his wife of 40 years to leave him this week with the public quip that she no longer could tolerate his chasing after other women, including domestic helpers, cooks and assistants," the Tribune report said.
This story prompted Enrile to make a public statement. In 1998, he said: "What is totally false and malicious are the reports in the press and the rumor mills that the cause of our marital difficulties is an alleged relationship between me and my Chief of Staff, lawyer Gigi Reyes. There is no relationship, other than an official and professional one." (Read his statement here.)
Cristina wanted divorce
Cristina left for the US to get a divorce. She sent JPE the papers to sign. But she would return after JPE told her: "Over my dead body will I give you a divorce."
Cristina returned without conditions. She just kept quiet, she said.
"So you love him," said Monsod. Cristina responded, "I think the word is an affection that I have because he is the father of my children. I respect him for that."
But JPE's affair with Gigi continued. "For a while, they lay low," she said.
But they supposedly ended it after that. "I dont' think it's an affair anymore. It's a necessity. He needs her for his work," she said.
Their son, Juan Ponce "Jackie" Enrile Jr, interfered. "My son interfered. I don't know [what he did]. He didn't tell me. He just said, 'Mama, I will take care of it.'"
JPE and Cristina now live in different houses. But Cristina said this is because of JPE's books. He's got too many books and she said it's better that he moved to the place vacated by Jackie so he can have more space.
"We are more than great friends. I cannot express it in words. There is a mutual respect," she said. She said she has forgiven him wholeheartedly.
Reyes and the pork barrel scam
Reyes resigned as JPE's chief of staff in January 2013, following a word war with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who delivered a privilege speech detailing her hold on then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Cayetano said JPE discriminated against him in the Senate because of Reyes, who, he said, was the best friend of the wife of retired Supreme Court Justice Dante Tinga, who ran for Taguig mayor in 2013 against Cayetano's wife Lani. Tinga lost but contested the results before the Commission on Elections.
JPE tried to persuade her to change her mind to no avail. (READ: JPE on Gigi Reyes: I trust her. I want her back)
The pork barrel scam later exploded after the elections. Reyes was among the respondents named in the complaint filed by the justice department before the Office of the Ombudsman on September 16. Recently, whistleblower Ruby Tuason named Reyes as the woman who received kickbacks for JPE. (READ: Tuason unsure Enrile knew of kickbacks)
Cristina defends JPE
While she admitted she has not been involved in her husband's political career – she doesn't even read the newspapers anymore except for the headlines – Cristina defended her husband both from charges he is involved in the pork barrel scam and from allegations he is running a smuggling mafia in Cagayan.
On allegations that he is the mastermind of the pork scam, she said: "I don't believe that. I don't think that Johhny is that stupid."
On smuggling allegations, she said: "I can vouch for it. From the very beginning, he said – I was present in the meeting – he said, 'I don't want to know that anybody tries to smuggle anything, even toothpick.'"
But Cristina admitted that she regretted JPE's decision to join government and serve Marcos. "Frankly speaking, yes."
Cristina said JPE lost a lot of income when he joined government. "He was lawyering even for the American people.... The P300 improved as the years went by. Why will you get into a government job that gives you such a low pay?" she said.
JPE, who would serve as the defense minister of Marcos, was the known implementor of Martial Law. He junked Marcos to join the People Power Revolution that installed Corazon Aquino as president, but he was later charged with rebellion when he was accused of masterminding the coups against her administration. He would leave Aquino's Cabinet and later win a seat in the Senate.
Now 90 years old, JPE has had a long political career. In the eyes of Cristina, JPE is incorruptible. "No, I don't think so. Sometimes he would accept gifts from people whom he has helped. Expensive gifts, yes, but that is about all. Money, no," she told Monsod.
"He always served his positions in government with intelligence, sobriety, and with a full heart. He did his work," she added.
But Cristina was unable to respond when she was asked about the ambush that supposedly targeted JPE, and which prompted then President Ferdinand Marcos to declare Martial Law. JPE admitted that it was staged although he would later deny this.
"I dont' really know too much about it. It was not very important for me to... I cannot really explain myself. I don't really know," she said. – Rappler.com