Philippine politics

Miriam to DOJ: Probe Enrile ‘fronts’ in Cagayan breakwater

Ayee Macaraig

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Enrile says Santiago can 'dive in 50-feet water' to check her allegation that he used fronts in a Cagayan breakwater project

'MASKING INTERESTS.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago accuses Enrile of using his ex-chief of staff Gigi Reyes, her family and the head of a construction company

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is not turning her ire away from Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, this time accusing him of using fronts for his business interests in Cagayan.

In her latest attack on her archenemy, Santiago wrote Justice Secretary Leila de Lima asking her to investigate Enrile’s supposed use of the names of his resigned chief of staff Gigi Reyes, Reyes’ family, and the head of a construction firm in a P5.101-billion breakwater project in the Cagayan Freeport.

Santiago said Enrile was “inextricably linked” to Alice Eduardo, president and CEO of Sta Elena Construction, which bagged the breakwater project. She tagged Eduardo as Enrile’s “front” he used to “mask his immense personal financial interests.” 

The senator sought to draw the relationship between Enrile and Eduardo by saying that Gigi Reyes’ relatives sat on the board of another company of which Eduardo is president, Sta Fe Builders. Santiago said Sta Elena Construction and Sta Fe Builders share the same office in Manila. 

“Certain details betray Enrile’s hand. The Sta Fe Builders board of directors includes Gigi’s family. Her brother, Neal Jose O Gonzales, is board chair; and her mother Maria O Cooper, is a board member and one of the directors. That is Enrile’s thumbprint right there,” she said in her letter on Tuesday, February 4.

“The family [members] of his chief of staff are board members of Sta Fe Builders, which in turn is listed among the directors and officers of a Reyes family corporation, MGNP. Suspiciously, Sta Fe Builders was removed only two months later from the list of board directors,” Santiago added.

Santiago said Sta Elena Construction “served as conduit” for the P5.101 billion the government spent for the breakwater of Port Irene, “basically, Enrile’s brainchild when he served as [Cagayan] representative.”

“If Enrile is inexplicably linked to Eduardo, the logical question follows: Is Eduardo a front woman for Enrile’s business interests? If not, why did Enrile entrust to her a project in his home base, the Cagayan Freeport, with a budget costing the government P5.101 billion?”

Hailing from Cagayan, Enrile was the sponsor of the law that created the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).

Big projects

Besides Eduardo’s alleged “financial relationship” with Enrile, Santiago said the CEO runs the construction firm, which built foundation works for big projects like:

  • Pagcor Entertainment City
  • North Luzon Expressway
  • SM projects including the Mall of Asia
  • 4 power plants
  • Several traffic interchanges
  • Several bridge and flood control projects

Santiago added that Eduardo “reportedly became one of the Filipino partners of Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada.” (READ: Okada, 24 others face anti-dummy raps in PH)

Read Santiago’s letter here: 

Santiago’s letter was a follow-up to her request to De Lima last December to investigate Enrile for alleged crimes including running a smuggling and gambling empire in CEZA, and under-declaring his net worth. In response, the justice chief formed a task force to investigate Enrile.

Santiago delivered a privilege speech against Enrile on Dec 4, 2013, where she detailed Enrile’s supposed crimes and branded Reyes as his “concubine.” She said Enrile appointed Reyes’ ex-husband to CEZA so he can “seduce” her.

Enrile and Santiago have a long-running rivalry that came to a head in the wake of Enrile’s implication in the pork barrel scam. This led to the exchange of blistering privilege speeches full of personal attacks against each other in November and December 2013.

Enrile: She can dive in Cagayan to check

Santiago’s new allegation did not bother Enrile. The minority leader just brushed aside the attack, and reiterated that he had no shenanigans in Cagayan.

“I have no financial dealings with Ms Eduardo. I’m sure she won all her contracts on her own merit in a fair and legitimate bidding. Now if they want to check the quality of the work in that port, they can go there and dive in 50-feet water to check the breakwater,” Enrile told reporters Tuesday.

Enrile though admitted knowing Eduardo, saying he met her “socially maybe 4 or 5 times.” 

“They are free to check. I have never received any single centavo from her,” Enrile said. “My office never influenced anybody. You can ask the entire bureaucracy.”

Enrile denied any involvement in the Cagayan breakwater project. “I do not know. That’s all audited. That’s all approved by NEDA. That’s the project of the government, not my project. I’m just a senator.”

Yet he did not address Santiago’s allegations relating to his former chief of staff. “You better ask the people concerned.”

The minority leader again said that he will no longer retaliate because he has said his piece in his privilege speech, where he called Santiago “cuckoo, inane, and an obsessive hater.”

Asked if he expected a fair investigation from De Lima, the legal luminary said it did not matter. The DOJ recommended plunder charges against Enrile over the pork barrel scam.

“Fair or unfair, I don’t know but I have nothing to fear, I have nothing to hide. Why should I fear anyone filing charges against me? I’ll meet them squarely in the courtroom if they want. That’s why I’m asking everyone to appear as prosecutor.” –


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