Binay defends Enrile: ‘That’s why it’s a Christmas gift’
MANILA, Philippines – “You know why it’s called a Christmas gift? Because it was given on Christmas.”
This is how Vice President Jejomar Binay defended his ally and coalition partner, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Binay stood by Enrile amid the controversy over his decision not to give 4 senator-critics more funds sourced from Senate savings.
In an interview on Sunday, January 13, Binay said what Enrile did was aboveboard. Binay was interviewed before leaving for Abu Dhabi for the Sixth World Future Energy Summit.
Binay and Enrile are top leaders of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), along with former President Joseph Estrada.
“If you listen to Senator Enrile’s explanation, the senators were given money but that money will be used for the people, so projects. If you think it’s for personal use, that’s not true because they have to account for that as they liquidate the amount given to them,” Binay said in Filipino.
The Vice President added, “The Commission on Audit will also check where the money went. I repeat: it’s so clear that that is for office purposes and projects.”
Binay’s defense of Enrile comes as no surprise. Over the weekend, UNA also said criticism of Enrile was “baseless and can be safely dismissed as pure political grandstanding” done “at the expense of the Senate’s independence.”
UNA even related the issue to Enrile’s defense of UNA member suspended Cebu Gov Gwendolyn Garcia, who is fighting a Malacañang-issued suspension order.
“There are certain parties who will use this supposed controversy to advance their own agenda of instigating a leadership change in the Senate. Such a move would be ill-advised and politically provocative,” UNA said.
UNA also cited the statement of COA Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan that Enrile as Senate President had discretion over the use of Senate savings.
The controversy erupted last week when the Philippine Daily Inquirer released a report showing that Enrile gave P1.6 million each to 18 senators in Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).
Enrile later admitted this. He said Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV got the first tranche of the MOOE of P600,000 each in November along with the other senators, and a cash gift of P250,000.
He confirmed though that he excluded the 4 from the second tranche of P1.6 million each in December.
‘Enrile gets personal, uses GMA tactics’
Despite Binay and UNA’s defense of Enrile, Santiago and the minority senators have continued criticizing the Senate President.
In an interview over radio dzBB on Sunday, January 13, Enrile and Santiago’s rivalry further deepened as the two revived old issues and attacks against each other.
Santiago slammed Enrile for his role as martial law administrator during the Marcos years allegedly responsible for the enforced disappearances of Marcos critics. The senator even questioned the source of Enrile’s wealth, saying he may be guilty of plunder.
The female senator also questioned Enrile’s retraction of his admission that he faked his own ambush in 1972, which Marcos used as a basis for declaring martial law.
Enrile shot back, pointing to Santiago’s ties to the late Ambassador Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, the brother of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
He said Santiago should just charge him before the International Criminal Court, where she was elected as a judge, or before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The 3 other senator-critics have also come out to criticize Enrile’s selective release of the funds.
Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said last week Enrile “really set a bad precedent.”
“This Enrile precedent is the first time wherein regular funds for MOOE are given to senators based merely on whom the Senate President favors,” Cayetano said in a press conference.
Cayetano added that Enrile’s decision raised questions on the independence and integrity of the Senate.
“I thought in a ‘tuwid na daan,’ there will be no more GMA tactics involved – if they like you, bigger funds; if not , less or worse, none at all.”
Trillanes has also criticized Enrile for “playing favorites.”
‘Preventing leadership change’
Cayetano said the message of Enrile’s move was clear.
“I think it was meant to prevent a leadership change. Meaning, I don’t know why Sen Enrile would do that except to send a message that if you cross him even on issues, this is what’s going to happen to you.”
Talk of a plot to unseat Enrile has been rife since September 2012. Trillanes and Santiago warned of a Malacañang-backed plan to oust him over his opposition to the Reproductive Health and sin tax reform bills, and his position as UNA leader.
Enrile has said he is ready to yield the position to anyone who can muster the numbers to replace him. – Rappler.com