Will Drilon intervene in Miriam-Enrile feud?

Ayee Macaraig
Senator Sergio Osmeña III says the Senate President has the discretion to strike from the record remarks that are out of line, but Drilon has not exercised it

'NO COMMENT.' Senate President Franklin Drilon refuses to answer whether or not he will mediate between feuding Senators Santiago and Enrile. Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Will the Senate’s top leader mediate to stop the ugly bickering between two of the most senior members of the chamber? 

“No comment,” was the only response of Senate President Franklin Drilon to reporters’ questions.

Even before Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago delivered her fiery privilege speech against fierce rival Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Drilon evaded questions about the controversy that again puts the Senate in a negative light.

In her speech, Santiago called Enrile a “psychopathic hypersexualized serial womanizer,” “the icon of shameless lying,” “incorrigible liar,” “the prince of darkness,” “gambling and smuggling king,” and “the drama king of corrupt politics.”

Santiago spoke in response to Enrile’s privilege speech last week where he called her an “inane, obsessive hater” and “the grandmama of all falsehood fabricators” for naming him the mastermind of the pork barrel scam. 

Some senators have been looking to their leader to intervene.

“I think he will be in the best position considering he’s the father, the head of the Senate, and he’s the batchmate of Senator Santiago and also the predecessor of Senator Enrile, so it will be nice if common friends could intervene and patch things up,” Senator JV Ejercito told Rappler before the start of session.

Told about Drilon’s response, Ejercito said, “Probably he just doesn’t want to get caught in the middle of the crossfire, but hopefully after venting out all the ill-feelings against each other, hopefully it might be easier to patch things up.”

Ejercito said Drilon should be able to help them reconcile given his ties with the two senators. Drilon and Santiago are both from Iloilo while he and Enrile have been Senate leaders for years but hail from different parties. Drilon is from the ruling Liberal Party while Enrile is from the opposition United Nationalist Alliance. 

Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmena III has the same expectation.

“Always, the Senate President is supposed to keep order and decorum. So if there are comments it’s already ‘out of line,’ there can be motions to strike from the record because it’s offensive. So it is up to the Senate President to exercise his discretion in determining whether something is within bounds or out of bounds. So, we are hopeful that Senator Drilon would be able to do that,” Osmeña told reporters Wednesday morning.

Yet in both privilege speeches of Santiago and Enrile, Drilon made no such motion.

Asked how Drilon can intervene, Osmeña said, “I don’t know. That is a question you have to ask Senator Drilon.”

Osmeña has also been the subject of Santiago’s ire after he responded to her statement that the testimony of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles last November 7 would just be a circus.

“Every time she’s here, it’s always a circus anyway,” Osmeña retorted in October.

Senators admit that the catfight between their elders have an impact on them and the institution.

“It will definitely affect the image of the Senate which is still reeling from the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam. We are in the process of rebuilding the image and cleaning the image, so any conflict like this will definitely have a negative effect, I hope it will be the last one. After this, we’ve already moved on,” Ejercito said.

Enrile – along with Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla – is facing plunder complaint for allegedly siphoning off his pork barrel to Napoles’ fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.

Jinggoy to mediate

In an interview before the start of session, Enrile said none of his colleagues talked to him in a bid for reconciliation.

Asked if he was open to the idea, Enrile joked, “Huwag na, ayoko ng speculation. Maasim ako eh.” (Nevermind, I don’t want to speculate. I am appealing.)

The senator was referring to Santiago’s sarcastic statement that he still has appeal even at the old age of 89.

Enrile’s close ally, Estrada, though said he will try to mend ties between the two soon.

“For the sake of the institution, because the institution will have a negative image. I will give myself by the end of the year, hopefully before Christmas. My self-imposed deadline is before Christmas and hopefully in the spirit of Christmas, they will reconcile, but I will try my very best to patch things up before Christmas,” Estrada said.

Estrada said he will first talk to Santiago because Enrile “is like a father to me.”

Pareho nating nirerespeto iyan, parehong mas may edad iyan. Pareho ko silang nirerespeto, tinuturing mentor sa Senate. I will try. ‘Di ako susuko hangga’t di sila magkabati. Sana ito na ang huling araw na ito na ang pagtatalunan nila ang di pagkakaunawaan,” he said.

(We respect the both of them, they are already seniors. I look up to the both of them as my mentors in the Senate. I will not give up until they reconcile. I hope this is the last day of their misunderstanding.)

‘Senate is great entertainment’

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

They first had a confrontation during the period of amendments of the reproductive health law.

Enrile had said, “I am a Filipino legislator. I’m not an international legislator…. I am not as brilliant as the others out there.”

Santiago then responded, “I feel alluded to and I resent it!”

Enrile replied, “So be it.”

Commenting on the recent spat, Osmeña said, “Let me say this. The Senate is great entertainment. Nag-e-enjoy lahat kayo. Alam ko ‘yun.” (You are all enjoying. I know it.) – Rappler.com 

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