Juan Ponce Enrile was known as the smooth "company man," loyal to the boss but not without ambitions of his own.
An urbane, Harvard-educated corporate lawyer, Enrile joined the government of Ferdinand Marcos at its inception in 1966 and presided, as defense minister and martial-law administrator, over some of its worst abuses. His tenure also made him a wealthy man.
Cardinal Jaime Sin, the influential Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, was once denounced by Marcos' wife, Imelda, as the "red cardinal" because of his Chinese origin and what she claimed were his procommunist sympathies.
In fact a moderate anticommunist, Sin nevertheless found himself on the opposite side of the political fence from Enrile and the increasingly corrupt government he represented for 20 years.
Then, a week ago, all that changed. Enrile, along with Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, the armed forces vice chief of staff, launched a mutiny against Marcos, and Sin called out his own troops in full support of them. Against what Enrile called "overwhelming odds," it was this "odd couple," Sin and Enrile, who triumphed.
The main beneficiary was Corazon Aquino, who both believed had legitimately won the presidency in a disputed election on Feb. 7. But apart from providing a focus for the revolt, there is little indication that she played an active role in the three-day rebellion that ultimately toppled Marcos.
"This thing just fell into our laps," said an overjoyed spokesman for Aquino following her Feb. 25 inauguration as president.
How Sin and Enrile came together and their two followings merged -- the cardinal's priests and nuns on one side and Enrile's core group of about 300 hardened combat veterans on the other -- is a story of high-stakes gambling, overriding mutual interests and some apparent political expediency.
According to accounts pieced together here, Sin received a call at his archbishop's residence from Enrile at about 3 p.m. Saturday after the defense minister was warned that he and his security guards' organization were about to be arrested by Marcos loyalists in a crackdown on a military reformist organization. Shortly afterward, Sin got a call from Ramos, who was joining Enrile in what amounted to a military mutiny at the Defense Ministry at Camp Aguinaldo on the eastern outskirts of Manila.
Realizing that the two men were together and determined to make a stand, Sin sensed an opportunity to get rid of a corrupt, unpopular regime that he once compared to "a plague of locusts." He also decided to go for broke and immediately summoned all the bishops, priests and nuns he could contact.
The marching orders were to get people out on the streets to support the mutineers -- through peaceful demonstrations aimed at blocking loyalist forces and "human barricades" to protect the rebels from attack. Sin also called the Roman Catholic Church-backed radio station, Veritas, to spread the appeal for displays of "people's power."
The cardinal went on the air that night, urging the faithful to turn out peacefully to show support for "our two good friends," Enrile and Ramos, in round-the-clock vigils and to give food and other assistance to their soldiers.
That night, thousands kept a vigil outside Camp Aguinaldo, where a small contingent of about 300 men armed with light weapons expected to be attacked at any moment by the full might of Marcos' superior forces.
The attack never came, and the next day more thousands of people spilled into the streets after priests in their Sunday sermons repeated Sin's spiritual call to arms. The aim was to get a huge cross section of people out in support of the mutineers so that loyalist forces would recoil from attacking them. They ranged from penniless slum dwellers to wealthy society matrons bedecked with jewelry.
Time and again, the tanks, troops and armor that Marcos sent to attack the rebels ran into huge crowds that blocked streets and intersections with buses, trucks and other vehicles and stood or sat in the way of the advancing columns. Particularly effective were the women who came to be known as "the antitank nuns."
Priests and nuns, who wield great influence in this predominantly Roman Catholic country, surrounded tanks and truckloads of soldiers, recited the rosary, gave the troops flowers and pleaded with them not to spill the blood of fellow Filipinos.
The ploy worked. Every time that loyalist troops set out to attack the rebels in force, they eventually turned back without firing a shot.
In orchestrating all of this behind the scenes, Sin staked much to realize a strongly held belief that the Marcos government was leading the country to disaster.
The wily cardinal, who previously had maintained a policy he called "critical collaboration" with Marcos, occasionally made his feelings plain. In a speech in Washington last year, Sin said that "because of the abuses of the present administration, communism is gaining ground, and therefore we need a new face, a new leader."
Sin's statements prompted Marcos to charge that the cardinal "still harbors his old fantasy of becoming a political leader." Marcos said Sin's attitudes "would interest a shrink" and lamented that "now the whole world knows what poor president Marcos is confronted with."
As Marcos' defense minister since 1970, Enrile was confronted with the same thing. In an interview in 1984, he complained about the involvement of Catholic clergymen in activities that tended to support the Communist New People's Army, which is waging a guerrilla war in the Philippine countryside. He also denounced the presence in the Philippines of foreign priests.
"It's easier to deal with Marxists than people of God," Enrile said at one point in the interview.
It was an outlook he seemed to share with Marcos, whom he first met more than 20 years ago. When Marcos was elected president in 1965, he called on Enrile to join his government. After serving as insurance commissioner, undersecretary of finance and acting customs commissioner, Enrile was appointed secretary of national defense in 1970.
In this post, he was the administrator of martial law, imposed by Marcos from 1972 to 1981, and thus was associated with the arrest and seven-year detention of Benigno Aquino Jr., the assassinated husband of the country's new president.
Unswervingly loyal to Marcos, Enrile obediently followed the party line. When unidentified gunmen shot up Enrile's car (only the engine block was damaged) in an alleged assassination attempt in 1972, Marcos used the incident as one of his reasons for declaring martial law. It was only during a news conference at the beginning of last Saturday's mutiny that Enrile admitted that the attack had been staged.
Enrile also became a wealthy man while he served as martial-law administrator for Marcos. For a time he was a partner, with leading Marcos associate Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., in a coconut monopoly set up by presidential decree. Through a "levy" paid by coconut farmers on sales to a central buying organization, the monopoly raised more than $1 billion that was never audited or accounted for, according to published accounts quoting critics of the policy.
Enrile also has been linked to lucrative logging operations and land holdings in the southern Philippines.
Yet the 62-year-old defense minister maintained a reputation as an independent-minded man who sometimes would disagree with his president in private, and he was known to get along badly with Marcos' ambitious wife, Imelda, and the armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Fabian Ver.
Increasingly in recent years, Enrile was isolated and shunted aside in the power structure, in which Ver's influence predominated. He reportedly wanted to resign on more than one occasion but was persuaded to stay on.
Still, he maintained his presidential ambitions, usually couched in terms of running for the position in a post-Marcos era if Imelda Marcos were not a candidate.