Enrile keeps Senate presidency-A A +A
Monday, January 21, 2013
MANILA (4th Update) -- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile moved to relinquish his post after four years but colleagues overwhelmingly decided to retain him on Monday.
Enrile's motion was rejected by a vote of 11 to three, while two senators -- Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Joker Arroyo -- abstained.
Administration-allied Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Aquilino Pimentel III joined Enrile in granting his request to be replaced.
Still, Trillanes expressed confidence that Enrile will be ousted before Congress will end sessions on February 6 to give way for the campaign period of the May midterm elections.
He said this will only be possible if the four senators belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) headed by President Benigno Aquino III will join in his desire to remove the veteran lawmaker from his position.
Except for Senator Francis Pangilinan who was not present in the session hall, LP Senators Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon and Teofisto Guingona III voted to keep Enrile.
They were backed by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Panfilo Lacson, Vicente Sotto III, Gregorio Honasan II, Loren Legarda, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Francis Escudero and Lito Lapid.
Asked if the moves to oust Enrile had the consent of Malacañang, Trillanes said it is not necessary for him, but it could be for LP senators since their party leader is the President.
"So out of courtesy, they will inform the President. It's up to them, partido nila yun. Kami, di kami humihingi ng basbas from the President (It's up to them, it's their party. Our party does ask approval from the President)," he said.
Enrile's offer to quit was immediately thwarted by his allies with Sotto, majority floor leader, moving to reject his motion to declare the top Senate position vacant.
But Lacson asked for a division of the house. Estrada, the presiding officer, acceded to Lacson's motion.
Enrile said he will reiterate his offer to resign when all the 23 senators are in attendance.
Prior to the vote, Enrile blasted critics, including Trillanes, for spreading misinformation and plotting for his ouster.
"One senator is so desperate that he has repeatedly and shamelessly invoked and sought Malacañang's involvement and intervention just to get enough support to oust me. He continues to make a mockery of the Senate as an independent institution," the Senate leader said.
Trillanes, who is running for reelection under the Liberal Party-led coalition, had a falling out with Enrile last September over the planned division of Camarines Sur.
Enrile, on the other hand, accused Trillanes of being a traitor for allegedly defending the interest of China in the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who is engaged in a bitter word ward with Enrile over the additional P1.6 million for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of 18 senators, was absent because of hypertension and bone marrow disorder.
The embattled Senate leader premised his offer to resign by saying that the "venomous, malevolent and sustained" attacks against him by his adversaries need not involve the Senate as an institution, which is now suffering under "a dark cloud of doubt and suspicion as a house of thieves."
Enrile was referring to Santiago, Trillanes, and siblings Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, whom he claimed had been behind the smear campaign against him in the media, spurred by his decision to grant them only P600,000 each as additional MOOE last November.
"The persistent attacks of my adversaries, whether they be my loud and bitter critics, or those lurking in the shadows for lack of courage to come out in the open, abetted by some elements in the media, have successfully poisoned the minds of the public," he added.
Enrile lashed at Santiago whom he labelled his "most cantankerous critic" for her "audacity" in calling her colleagues as his "cohorts" and painting them as crooks.
"I never bribed anyone to gain support for myself, much less with the money of the people. I did not enter into any unholy deals or plots to assume this position of leadership twice, or to cling to it like a leech hungry for its perquisites. The very thought that this position is for sale repulses me. But apparently, Senator Santiago thinks everything and everyone here has a price tag," he said.
The office of Pia Cayetano, Enrile said, even kept following up with his office and the Senate budget office about the release of her additional MOOE last December.
Lacson said he felt it was no longer necessary to oust Enrile since they only have nine sessions left before the February adjournment. He said the senators can just await the new composition of the Senate after the May elections.
"I don't see any change in the leadership of the Senate. If you change it today or tomorrow, forget the legislative agenda since new committee chairmen will be named, among other developments," former Senate president Ernesto Maceda said in a press briefing.
On Santiago, Lacson said that he will just wait for her to get well before pressing charges against her because he does not want to contribute to her poor health.
Marcos, in explaining his abstention, said that he was not prepared when Enrile offered to resign and the senators right there and then were asked to put it to a vote.
"Sabi ko mag-aabstain muna ako, antayin ko pagka kumpleto na ang mga senador. At this point, napag-usapan na namin kung anong aming gagawin, ano yung magiging epekto nito. Sa ngayon, out of the blue yung kanyang motion (I told them I have to abstain for now and wait until members of the Senate are all present. At this point, we have already talked about our moves, and its possible effects. The motion of the Senate President was done out of the blue)," he said.
Alan Peter Cayetano, for his part, said replacing Enrile was not his priority even as he pushed for a private audit of Senate funds.
Also on Monday, an ethics complaint was filed by the Volunteers and Crime and Corruption through its leader Dante Jimenez against all the senators who received the "cash gifts" from Enrile, including Santiago, Trillanes and the Cayetano siblings, who only claimed to have received P600,000 each in November.
"[T]he said funds should be returned to the treasury of the government to be reallocated and for more important matters such as the improvement of our criminal justice system, and hiring and training of more competent and dedicated policemen to maintain peace and order, and to apprehend criminals," the complaint read.
The complaint was filed before the office of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the Senate ethics committee. (Virgil Lopez/JCV/Sunnex)