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JPE, the centenarian

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Legal Counsel, Secretary Juan Valentin Furagganan Ponce Enrile, better known as JPE – former assemblyman, minister of defense, senator, congressman (representing the 1st District of Cagayan province), Senate president and the first and longest-serving and STILL breathing oldest public official on planet Earth and probably the entire universe – is celebrating his 100th birthday today.

Born on Feb. 14, 1924, he may well be considered by the Guinness Book of World Records as the only centenarian still working in government.

Unknown to many, he was – and still is – the champion defender of the military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension system, for which more than 600,000 MUP, active and retired, as well as the future generations of MUP entrants, including and more importantly their families, will forever be grateful.

As Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, he publicly opposed the proposal of then DOF secretary Benjamin Diokno in March 2023 for a drastic overhaul of the MUP pension system. He argued: “Iba ang trabaho ng sundalo eh” and that the soldiers are “gambling their lives to protect the country.” His advice: “Kung ako si Secretary Diokno, dahan-dahan ako diyan. That is very explosive.” (Quotes extracted from “Reforming the MUP Pension System: A Position Paper of PMA Class of 1971, Inc.,” published in The Cavalier April-June 2023 Issue, p.45).

Years earlier, as a senator just released from confinement (and hence unable to attend previous Senate sessions), he orchestrated the Hotel InterContinental brainstorming session on Dec. 15, 2015 with me as the resigned presidential adviser for rehabilitation and recovery in Central Visayas for Typhoon Yolanda and then senatorial candidate for the May 2016 elections. Along with my Mistah, the most tenacious MUP pension advocate Vice Admiral Ariston de los Reyes PN (Ret) and other retirees, we exhaustively deliberated on the arguments to oppose the indefinite suspension of pension indexing through the enactment of Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 2015.

The bill at the time was already approved on third reading by both houses of Congress. During that meeting and through telephone