Miriam’s pick for Senate leader? Drilon, Angara, Villar

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago picks Drilon, Angara and Villar as possible replacements for Enrile

NO PLOTTER. Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago denies she is the one trying to unseat Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile but chose at least 3 possible replacements for him. She said, "“I’m not the kind to go around organizing political strategies. I’d rather stare blankly in space and contemplate on my existence.” Photo from Karen Davila's Twitter page

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – She has long warned of a plot to unseat her bitter rival, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. If it were up to Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, who should be Senate President?

“[Senators] Angara, Villar, Drilon. Ang mga bata pwede rin (Younger senators can also take over),” Santiago said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart on Wednesday, January 16.

Santiago was referring to Senators Edgardo Angara, Manny Villar, and Franklin Drilon, all former Senate Presidents. Of the 3 names she mentioned though, only Drilon will stay on after the 2013 elections. Angara and Villar’s terms are ending this year. Angara was quick to say he is not interested in the post. 

This is not the first time Drilon’s name was mentioned as a possible replacement for Enrile.

In a media forum earlier this week, another Enrile critic Sen Antonio Trillanes IV also said Drilon is “the more appropriate choice” to be Senate President because Villar is on his last term.

Drilon is a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III, and the campaign manager of the ruling Liberal Party. 

Santiago reiterated in the ANC interview that Enrile “should never have been Senate President.” She denied though that she is the one trying to unseat him.

“I’m not the kind to go around organizing political strategies. I’d rather stare blankly in space and contemplate on my existence.”

Unlike her, Trillanes has openly admitted plotting against Enrile.

In December, Santiago warned of a Palace-backed plot to replace Enrile because of his opposition to key administration measures like the Reproductive Health and sin tax reform laws.

She also pointed to Enrile’s position as a top leader of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) as a possible factor.

Talk of a plan to remove Enrile as Senate President began as early as September 2012, and has remained persistent.

Enrile has said he is willing to step down if his colleagues muster the numbers to replace him.

‘COA stand disappointing, frustrating’

Santiago again questioned why Enrile excluded him and 3 other critics from the second tranche of Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) amounting to P1.6 million each in December.

Santiago, Trillanes, and Senators Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano only got the first tranche of P600,000 each in November, and a cash gift of P250,000 each.

Santiago said she is willing to file a Supreme Court petition questioning the authority of heads of office use savings at their discretion. Santiago clarified though she will still have to wait for the Commission on Audit (COA) to reply to her inquiry about the issue last January 10. 

Enrile admitted he deliberately excluded Santiago and the minority senators from the release of the second tranche.

Santiago questioned the law authorizing Enrile to be selective despite statements from COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan that special provisions of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) 2012 or the budget law gave the Senate President power over Senate savings.

The Ilonggo senator said she was “very disappointed and frustrated” with Tan’s statement. 

“If she said that, then she may have overlooked the constitutional provisions on due process and equal protection.  I hope she did not mean that COA rules vest unlimited discretion on every head of office.  Every discretionary use of budget funds is always limited by constitutional provisions,” she said.

She added, “Enrile admitted that he is giving away taxpayers’ money of some P2 million as gifts to senators.  And the COA does not see anything wrong in that?  Supposed next year, the Christmas gift for a senator is raised to P3 million, and the year later, to P4 million.  Does COA mean that the amount is unlimited? We are talking of taxpayers’ money here.”

Still, Santiago insisted that the controversy was just not a legal issue but also an ethical and moral one.

“We’re talking about the money of Filipino taxpayers. Makatarungan ba na pera ng bayan ipinamigay niyo? Ang dami nating biktima ng bagyo.” (Is it just for you to give away taxpayers’ money? We have so many typhoon victims.)

The senator renewed her call for the COA to strictly look into how senators make use of Senate funds, saying there are many avenues for corruption.

“Starting January, every senator will receive his monthly allocation ofP2.2 million, half of which will go to personal services and half to office expenses.  So I ask: Why give so-called additional MOOE at yearend, when the Senate has effectively closed for the year, and new MOOE will be given in January?”

‘I almost flunked, what do you care?’

Santiago again lamented what she called “personal insults” from Enrile, who has mentioned amid their word war that she almost flunked the bar exam.

Yeah, so anong pakialam niya? That’s personal. Bakit napunta na sa ganoon? May mahahalay pa na salita.” (Yeah so what does he care? Why do we have to go there? There are disrespectful statements made.)

She added, “Paano kung sabihin ko na what about you and that body odor? Wala nang katapusan iyan!” (What if I say, what about you and that body odor? It will not end!)

Addressing the criticism, Santiago said, “That’s right because I fell in love.”

Santiago said she dated around at the time of the bar exam as a form of “paternal rebellion” because her father did not allow her to go on a scholarship to Russia and insisted that she take the bar exams instead.

“I studied for the bar but the questions were completely unintelligible.”

The senator again invited Enrile to a debate. She earlier said they should just debate on the constitutionality of the “selective giving” of the MOOE. 

“Harap-harapan tayo. Huwag tayong magsiraan.” (Let’s go face to face. Let’s not backbite.)

“Enrile does not even have the guts to face me at a public televised debate.  Instead, he has been hiding behind the tails of his attack dogs.”  

“He has definitely gone off the deep end by attacking me on a personal basis.  He has resorted to arguments based on personalities (argumentum ad hominem) which is not allowed in any debate,” Santiago said.

Miriam turns ire on Lacson

Santiago also took a swipe at Sen Panfilo Lacson for being an “Enrile defender.” While she did not name Lacson in the interview, she dropped hints in response to Lacson’s media statements in defense of Enrile.

Lacson has taken offense with Santiago’s statement that the money may have been a bribe for other senators. He was among those who got the second tranche of MOOE of P1.6 million each. Lacson said if Santiago is really against the release of the MOOE, she should have returned past amounts she got to avoid a double standard. 

Santiago responded to Lacson’s call for her to keep quiet. 

“If that senator wants to participate in the conspiracy of silence, he can, but he should respect my freedom of expression and the public’s right to know under the Constitution. If a dog barks at midnight, the homeowner should go out and search for the intruder, instead of beating the dog,” she said.

Santiago even referred to Lacson’s implication in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case. The Court of Appeals has cleared Lacson in the case, prompting him to come out of hiding after a year-long absence. 

She said, “He does not even have a clue about the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies.  He was involved in a court case, and he turned tail and became a fugitive from justice, which is criminal behavior.  That is what you get when a layman filled with hubris pretends to be a lawyer.  Pilit nakikisawsaw (he is meddling with the issue),” she said.

Lacson: Miriam hypocrite par excellence 

In a statement Wednesday, Lacson reacted to Santiago’s new criticism.

“Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago is what we may call a ‘crusading crook.’ She pretends to be clean when she is not,” Lacson said in a text message.

“A hypocrite par excellence, she doesn’t have a single shred of integrity in her veins and moral ascendancy over any mortal on earth. Ask the people who have fallen victims to her verbal threats and assaults and they will tell you how much they shelled out.”

“She should do some soul-searching and self-reflection. She should also stop blaming God for all her hurt feelings.” – Rappler.com 

Related stories:

After explosive interview, Miriam bursts blood vessel 

Enrile recalls staff of critics 

Enrile’s ‘cash gifts’ exclude 4 critics 

Enrile is playing favorites – Trillanes 

COA: Enrile has power over Senate funds

Binay defends Enrile: That’s why it’s a Christmas gift 

Miriam wants to take Enrile to court but… 

Miriam on ties with Enrile: ‘Ice-cold’ 

UNA: JPE ‘cash gifts’ controversy mere ‘political grandstanding’