MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Hours after a fellow senator boasted they had the numbers to oust him by February, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday, January 21, moved to declare the position of Senate President "vacant."
Yet Enrile's dramatic privilege speech did not lead to a change in Senate leadership, with 11 senators moving to reject his motion. Read the full speech here.
In his blistering speech at the resumption of session, Enrile blasted his 4 critics: Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Pia Cayetano, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer for what he called a "disinformation campaign" that "successfully poisoned the minds of the public." It was the Inquirer who first released the story on Enrile's release of Senate savings.
Enrile addressed the controversy surrounding his decision to exclude Santiago and the 3 minority senators from receiving an additional P1.6 million each in Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) last December. The 4 only got the first tranche of P600,000 each in November, and a Christmas cash gift of P250,000 each.
The controversy has fuelled talks of a plot to unseat Enrile.
The Senate President said he made the motion because the Senate as an institution was already being dragged into the issue.
"They have succeeded as well in placing this very institution, the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, under a dark cloud of doubt and suspicion as a house of thieves."
"As I have said earlier, I serve at the pleasure of the majority of my colleagues. I claim no vested right to this high position. No one has," Enrile said.
"Replacing me does not have to take so much effort, planning orplotting. This seems to be the pre-occupation of some people in this Chamber and a constant fodder for the rumor mill, and it is such a waste of time and energy," he said.
Enrile declared, "Of threats and coup rumors, we have had enough. I am way too old to be threatened by anyone, least of all by cowards and hypocrites."
He said he made the motion so any of his 4 critics may have the chance to be nominated and lead the Senate.
A few hours before the speech, Enrile's principal critic, Sen Antonio Trillanes IV told reporters he just needed 4 votes to complete the ouster plot against the Senate President. He will most likely be ousted before Congress goes on break in February, Trillanes added.
Enrile's key allies - Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen Panfilo Lacson -- objected to Enrile's motion. A total of 16 senators, including Enrile, were present at the session hall.
Eleven senators voted in favor of Sotto's and Lacson's motion to reject Enrile's proposal to quit:
The 11 included senators from President Benigno Aquino III's Liberal Party: Drilon, Guingona and Recto. Trillanes has said he needs the support of the LP members to muster the numbers to remove Enrile.
Trillanes named Drilon as a possible replacement but the LP stalwart denied to reporters that his party is plotting against Enrile.
Only 3 -- Enrile, Trillanes, and Sen Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III -- voted in favor of the move to declare the position vacant.
In a text message, Pimentel explained his vote, "[I voted] to make possible a 'fresh start' in the Senate should that be the sentiment of the majority. That motion was only the first step in a multi-step process."
Two senators -- Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Joker Arroyo - abstained. Marcos said he was not ready and wants to discuss the issue first with his fellow senators.
Santiago is on sick leave. Also absent were the Cayetanos, and Senators Edgardo Angara, Francis Pangilinan, Sergio Osmeña III, and Manny Villar.
Enrile said though he will reiterate his motion when there is complete attendance.
‘Bribery allegation repulses me’
Enrile maintained the release of the funds was not meant to keep him in power.
“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.”
He said, “The very thought that this position is for sale repulses me. But apparently, Senator Santiago thinks everything and everyone here has a price tag.”
Enrile said he is used to attacks in his nearly 89 years “but the Senate need not and should not suffer the venom which is aimed solely at me."
“The honor of this chamber must be spared from the rapacity and the sly, cunning and ruinous machinations of some people among us who only have their political ambition and self-interest in mind.”
Santiago has implied that the release of the funds to the 18 senators was meant to keep Enrile in his position. The female senator has warned of a Palace-backed coup against Enrile, citing his opposition to administration measures like the Reproductive Health (RH) and sin tax reform laws.
Santiago has also said that Enrile’s standing as an opposition leader endangers his post.
The speech and voting also come after the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed an ethics case against Enrile over the Senate savings issue.
House of thieves, whiners, ‘balanced views’
Enrile began his speech by attacking a newspaper he refused to name but hinted to be the Inquirer. He said the paper was his “enemy and critic in the press,” merely “masquerading as ‘responsible journalists.’”
“One of them known for their tagline ‘balanced news, fearless views,’ have enjoyed the freedom to carry on their own crusade – that is, to make sure that Enrile shall forever be known and remembered as a liar, a traitor, a thief and a villain.”
Enrile also took issue with the use of what he called “misleading phrases” like “cash gifts, Christmas bonuses, and “bribes.”
The Senate President had harsh words for Santiago, branding her as “my most cantankerous critic.” He questioned her reactions to criticism from Lacson.
“When it was her turn to be challenged regarding her own integrity and to be called ‘a hypocrite par excellence,’ it seems [it] was enough to pose a danger to her own health and whatever remains of her equanimity and sanity.”
Enrile said Sen Pia Cayetano kept following up with his office about the release of her MOOE and later “Santiago started whining” about it. He said Sen Pia later became "conspicuously silent."
Referring to the 4 senators, Enrile said, “What would they have done if the funds were given to them? Would they have whined and complained? Or, as Senator Santiago herself suggested could be done - Would they have pocketed it instead of using it appropriately for the operation expenses of their own offices?”
“She goes on to say that senators take a percentage of their PDAF. I wonder…is she speaking from her own experience or field of expertise?”
'Shamelessly dragging Malacañang'
Enrile also took a swipe at Trillanes.
“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,” Enrile said.
He added, "I have fought many battles alone. I do not run away like those who make a show of it in [classy] hotels and run away like a dog with tails behind their hind."
Enrile said it was important to settle the matter immediately so the Senate can carry on with legislation. There are only 9 session days left before the Senate again goes on break for the campaign period.
The motion, however, did not prosper with the eleven senators effectively giving Enrile a vote of confidence. – Rappler.com