Enrile apologizes for 'fracas,' explains funds
MANILA, Philippines - After a session break, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile apologized Wednesday evening, January 23, for the "fracas" that involved him and Sen Alan Peter Cayetano.
During the break, radio DZMM reported that Enrile's blood pressure reached 180/100. His close ally, Sen Jinggoy Estrada told the station that the Senate President was hooked up to an oxygen tank at the Senate lounge.
After several minutes, session resumed with a calmer Enrile.
"First of all I'd like to apologize for the fracas. I will not deal with those matters anymore..... I was just trying to answer personal assaults against my person. But I will not deal with those matters anymore. Let it stay on the record and let the Divine Spirit determine whose truth is correct, where lies the truth.”
He added, “I have served the country for almost 50 years. I’ve been subjected to all kinds of investigations, and in fact, I am imprisoned twice by two presidents but I will leave it aside. I was simply taken by the hard assault on my person.”
Enrile went on to explain the Senate budget and the breakdown of the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).
In December 2012, Enrile excluded the 4 – Cayetano, and Senators Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Antonio Trillanes IV -- from the list of senators who received P1.6-M each in additional MOOE.
Enrile admitted excluding them from the second tranche, giving them only the first tranche of MOOE amounting to P600,000 each and a Christmas cash gift from Enrile's office of P250,000 each.
On Monday, Trillanes said they had the numbers to oust Enrile from the presidency. But Liberal Party members dismissed the idea, saying it was too late to revamp the Senate leadership. The Senate goes on election break in February.
The Senate President explained that the MOOE of the Senate Secretariat worth over P500,000,000 was meant for official purposes like travelling expenses, training, office supplies, gasoline, utility, communication and rent.
He then pointed out that the General Appropriations Act gave the Senate President and the House Speaker authority to augment the budget of offices under his or her jurisdiction.
Enrile said he made it a point to issue the senators a cheque of P250,000 each from the official cheque book of his office to ensure that the money can be traced, and subjected to audit. He said the cheque was from a government account in the Land Bank of the Philippines.
"I gave this to well-meaning, knowledgeable gentlemen and ladies. They must know this is [people's] money. I don’t have to educate them."
Enrile revealed it was Senators Edgardo Angara and Franklin Drilon who "kidded me" about giving additional funds in time for the Christmas season.
He took responsibility for the release of the funds, saying it has been Senate tradition not to give privileges to the minority. He said he experienced this when he too was a member of the minority.
"If this was the basis of resentment, I assume responsibility. The gentleman from Taguig knows this is the practice when he was chairman of the Committee on Accounts."
Enrile though asked why senators did not complain in the past when they have been receiving MOOE all these years.
“Nobody complained when I gave additional MOOE in 2008. I also gave them cheques. Same in 2009, 2010, 2011, nobody complained. It's only now it happens simply because I made the mistake of differentiating between the majority and minority. If not, maybe there’s no hullabaloo.”
“I have a reason for making differentiation which I will not disclose. But I stand by it.”
Cayetano told reporters that he does not like to focus on the personal issues but insists on an audit of Senate funds. He called on Enrile to release the documents, vouchers and receipts on the money.
"We just have to have a good night sleep and tomorrow, it's like nothing happened. And I'm appealing to the members of the majority to not only see it from the point of view of majority but from the point of view of the people," Cayetano added. -- Rappler.com