The recent 96th birthday of Juan Ponce Enrile inspired once again the now-frankly tiresome memes of the ancientness of the former Senator, who happens to be only the fifth in a list of Philippine Senators in our history who has lived the longest (after Helena Benitez, Justiniano Montano, Dominador Aytona, and Eva Estrada Kalaw). However, Enrile in 2019 did likely set a record of sorts when he ran (but lost in his bid) for his old Senate seat at the age of 95. (United States Senator Strom Thurmond did win re-election in 1996 when he was 94 years old, but his threat to run again at the age of 100 did not come to pass.)
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Considering that the average lifespan of a Filipino is only 69 years old, Enrile’s efforts have to be considered as remarkable. Yet his political longevity is not singular in the Philippines. Other notable figures have had unusually long political careers, reckoned from their first assumption of public service until their day of retirement (or in the case of incumbent Senator Gordon, until today). Here are some notable examples:
1. Richard Gordon, 49 years
First ran and won an election in 1971 as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention; currently serving as Senator (49 years).
2. Arthur Defensor, 50 years
He was elected mayor of Mina, Iloilo in 1969; and retired as Governor of Iloilo in 2019.
3. Raul Daza, 50 years
First elected as Representative of the Lone District of Northern Samar in 1969; finished term as Representative of the First District of Northern Samar in 2019
4. Jose de Venecia, 50 years
First elected as Representative of the Second District of Pangasinan in 1969; term as Special Envoy of the President for Intercultural Dialogue and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation expired in 2019.
5. Pablo Cuneta, 51 years
First served as Deputy Governor of Rizal (1947); finished final term as mayor of Pasay in 1998.
6. Jose T. Fuentebella, 52 years
First elected as Representative from Ambos Camarines to the National Assembly in 1909; retired as Ambassador to Indonesia in 1961.
7. Joseph Estrada, 52 years
First ran for Mayor of San Juan in 1967; ended term as Mayor of Manila after being defeated for re-election in 2019.
8. Imelda Marcos, 53 years
Assumed office in 1966 as Chairperson, Board of Directors, Cultural Center of the Philippines; retired as Representative of the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte in 2019.
9. Juan Ponce Enrile, 55 years
first joined government as part of Senate staff of Ferdinand Marcos (1964); last ran for the Senate, without success, in 2019.
10. John Henry Osmena, 56 years
First elected as Cebu City councilor in 1963; finished term as mayor of Toledo, Cebu and defeated for election to the House in 2019.
11. Cornelio Villareal, 58 years
First elected in 1934 as a delegate from Capiz to the 1935 Constitutional Convention; retired as Representative of the Second District of Capiz in 1992.
12. Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, 58 years
First served as Municipal President of Montalban in 1906; died in office while serving as Senator in 1964.
13. Rodolfo Albano, 60 years
First served as Vice Governor of Isabela in 1959; died in office while serving as House party-list member for LPG Marketers' Association Party-list in 2019.
14. Carlos P. Romulo, 62 years
First served as secretary to Senate President Quezon (1922); retired as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1984. Never ran in an election.