Enrile to Miriam: Just don’t blame me for Yolanda

The Senate Minority Leader says whatever Santiago’s attacks will be, he will no longer retaliate because he has said his piece

'CALL ME DEMON.' Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile says he is ready for Santiago's personal attacks but asks her to refrain from blaming him for "Yolanda, Christ's crucifixion, and the death of Rizal." Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile will show up for the “retaliatory” privilege speech of his fierce rival Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Wednesday, December 4.

A day before Santiago talks, Enrile told reporters he is ready for her personal attacks in response to his privilege speech, but he has one request.

“Huwag lang niyang sabihin ako ang may kasalanan sa Yolanda, o ang Panginoong Hesukristo pinako ko sa Golgotha, o kaya baka sabihin niya baka ako bumaril kay [Jose] Rizal.”

(She should not blame me for Yolanda, or say I crucified Jesus Christ in Golgotha, or say I was the one who shot Rizal dead.)

Enrile was referring to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the world’s most powerful storm to make landfall in central Philippines on November 8 and killed over 5,000.

The 89-year-old Enrile said he will just sit down and listen to Santiago, who vowed to deliver a speech responding to the minority leader.

“Okay lang ‘yun. Tawagin niya akong demonyo. Tawagin niya akong barumbado, Tawagin niya akong sinungaling. Tawagin niya akong Satanas. Okay lang ‘yun.”

(That’s okay. She can call me a demon. She can call me a liar. She can call me Satan. That’s fine.)

On November 27, Enrile delivered a scathing privilege speech against Santiago, calling her an “inane, obsessive hater” for accusing him of being the mastermind of the pork barrel scam, a murderer, and for supposedly funding the Zamboanga City siege. He even went as far as questioning her psychiatric consultations and low bar exam score.

Santiago wrote Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday to confirm her plan to deliver a privilege speech the following day, “immediately after the reference of business.”

The speech will be a rare appearance for Santiago, who has been on sick leave since the 16th Congress opened in July. She only showed up in the Senate for a confirmation hearing and on November 7, during the testimony of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

“I am sick and have energy only for two hours, after which I am attacked by chronic fatigue syndrome. I shall reply to the personal insults hurled against me by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile in his privilege speech,” Santiago wrote.

Told about Santiago’s letter, Enrile jokingly exclaimed, “Ha, two hours?!” (What, her speech is two hours long?)

Enrile said he will evaluate whether or not he will interpellate Santiago after her speech.

“Titingnan ko. Titingnan natin ano ang sasabihin niya. Siguro sasabihin niya, ‘Sinungaling si Enrile, huwag niyong paniwalaan.’” (I will see. Let’s see what she will say. She might say, “Enrile is a liar, don’t believe him.”)

Asked if he will confront his bitter enemy, Enrile said, “Hindi eh, takot ako. Mahirap na, baka mabaril ako.” (No, I am afraid. I won’t confront her. She might shoot me.)

‘For Senate’s sake, I won’t fire back’

Yet Enrile said whatever Santiago’s attacks will be, he will no longer retaliate because he has said his piece. The senator was told about the appeal of their colleagues for them to stop fighting and the public perception against the catfight in the institution.

“Kaya nga, alang-alang na lang sa Senado, kahit ano’ng sabihin niya tungkol sa akin, di ko na papatulan,” Enrile said. (That’s why, for the sake of the Senate, whatever she says, I won’t retaliate.)

Enrile delivered his speech after Santiago accused him of being the brains behind the pork barrel scam, where he and other lawmakers allegedly channeled their pork barrel funds to Napoles’ fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.

The former Senate President though reiterated that he is ready to defend himself in court, dismissing calls for senators implicated in the scam to follow the example of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and resign. Biazon tendered his irrevocable resignation Monday after being included in the second batch of graft complaints over the scam.

Enrile said, “Alam mo kanya-kanya iyan eh, kanya-kanyang desisyon iyan eh, kanya-kanyang paningin, kaya huwag na nating bibigyan ng kulay pa o konklusyon ang taong nag-resign na.”

(You know, it’s each person’s decision and views so let us not put color or any conclusion to the resignation of the person.)  

Enrile added that Biazon was a different case because he is a presidential appointee while senators and congressmen are elected officials.

“You cannot resign your position to the people. [Lawmakers are] supposed to be presumed innocent. Just because they filed a case against you, it doesn’t mean you are guilty. The burden of proof lies with those who filed a case. If there is truth, then the court will rule against you. Now if public opinion judges you, there’s nothing you can do. That’s how our democracy works.”

Christmas gift for Miriam? Corned beef

Enrile was asked whether or not there is any hope for reconciliation between him and Santiago.

The two legal luminaries have had a long-running feud, which was aggravated during the debates on the reproductive health law last year and the Senate fund controversy in December 2012. Santiago described their relationship as “ice-cold.”

In his speech last week, Enrile said the root of Santiago’s animosity was his opposition to her confirmation as agrarian reform secretary, and refusal to give her Senate committees with big budgets.

Enrile said, “Kung ako babatiin ng tao, babatiin ko rin. Kung yayakapin ako, yayakapin ko rin. [Pero] wala naman akong balak kumamay maski sino eh, basta kusang loob kung masasalubong ko.

(If a person will greet me, then I will greet her. If she will hug me, then I will hug her. But I have no plans of shaking hands with just anybody. As long as the person shows sincerity, then I will reciprocate.)

Enrile was asked whether or not he will accept a Christmas gift from Santiago. Last year, Santiago was offended when Enrile returned her gift of biscuits from her home province of Iloilo.

This time, Enrile said, “Kung bibigyan ako ng regalo tatanggapin ko lalo na kung rosas pandan.” (I will accept gifts given to me, especially if it’s rosas pandan.)

Will he also give Santiago a gift for the holidays?

Enrile said, “Baka sakali corned beef. Iyon lang ang kaya ko, corned beef eh. Masarap naman ang corned beef, ‘di ba?”

(Maybe corned beef. That’s the only thing I can afford. Anyway, corned beef is delicious, right?) – Rappler.com 

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