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Enrile tells critics: You can't destroy me

LAGUNA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “I regret nothing. If you throw something at me, I’ll throw something back at you. That’s who I am.” 

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile stood by his fierce attacks on Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, even further digging into the supposed debts of his late father.

In a press conference with Vice President Jejomar Binay at a campaign sortie here, Enrile appeared to be calmer and in better health but was still in fighting form. He blasted Cayetano and his 3 other critics in the Senate.

"They cannot destroy me as Senate President. My God, I have a national following. I’ll go to the people and present the issue to them and I will find out whether I will be sustained or not," Enrile said.

Asked about the possibility of reconciliation with his critics in the Senate, Enrile said: "Wala (none). I can work with them. I have my majority. I don’t need the minority. I can pass laws without them. That is the essence of a majority."

He added: "The people know me very well. I’ve stood my ground. I was jailed for things I did not do. I stood my ground. I did not kneel to anybody. And I think I’ll be vindicated again."

Enrile also confimed that his chief of staff, lawyer Jessica "Gigi" Reyes, resigned irrevocably and "spontaneously" after his word war with Cayetano. Reyes sent him her resignation letter but they were not able to talk. 

"I have to convince her to come back because in all the jobs in government that I handled since I joined government in 1966 … I delegate my powers to people that I trusted. They can sign cheques for me, they can decide for me because they know more or less how I think," Enrile said.

Illicit relation?

The Senate President said insinuations that he had a relationship with Reyes was the reason for the resignation.

"Eh ayaw na niya eh dahil kung anu-ano ang sinasabi nila that there is an illicit relation involved, mahirap naman yun eh. Babae yun." (She doesn’t like to work for me anymore because they say all sorts of things like there is an illicit relation involved. That’s hard. She’s a woman.)

Enrile implied that his relationship with Reyes was just professional. A lawyer, Reyes has been working with Enrile since 1988, after law school.

"Siyempre kasama ko sa opisina yun. Araw-araw, ganyan kasi ako, sa mga tauhan ko, I don’t treat them as servants, I treat them as human beings. They take lunch with me. I talk to them, I go to their offices when I have time." (She is with me in the office. Everyday, I’m like that to my people, I don’t treat them as servants but like human beings.)  

He likened it to his ties with women in the United Nationalist Alliance. "Kung sasabihin ko siya mamaya sabihin nililigawan ko siya, iyang mga iyan kasama ko sa sortie, para kong mga anak yan eh, inaakbayan ko, ganun kayo." (They might say I am courting these women but we are together, they are like my children. I put my arm on their shoulder. It’s like that.) 

During Cayetano's privilege speech, he criticized Reyes for an interview she gave calling him a hypocrite. He also said Reyes wields huge influence in the Senate, even joining senators’ caucus and discussions.

He said Reyes is against him because she is best friends with the wife of Retired Justice Dante Tinga. Tinga is the bitter rival of Cayetano's wife, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano.

'Late Cayetano crying to me'

Enrile said he dug up the debts of the Cayetano's late father to respond to the younger Cayetano's statements "as if I owed everything to Cayetano."

The Senate President said he brought up the issue because his critics insinuate that the late senator built a law office to make Enrile rich.

"Sabi ko hindi, ang asawa ko ang nagbigay ng pera P1M para matayo ang law office ni Cayetano dahil umiiyak sa akin, wala siyang trabaho dahil pinatalsik ng Accra dahil dun sa Pepsi Paloma case." (I said no, it was my wife who gave P1 million to build the law office of Cayetano because he was crying to me, he lost his job. Accra Law firm sacked him because of the Pepsi Paloma case.)

According to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report, it was Enrile "who brought Cayetano his first taste of being in the media spotlight, via the Pepsi Paloma rape case in 1982. The teenage starlet, who said she had been raped by three hosts of a popular noontime TV show, had approached the defense minister for help. Enrile decided to refer the matter to ACCRA, and contacted Cayetano."

The PCIJ report said: "Ang sabi sa 'kin, 'Rene, I’m sending Pepsi over to you,'" recalls Cayetano in an interview. "Kako, 'I don’t drink Pepsi, I drink Coke.'"

Enrile told reporters here that he was minister of defense when he requested a lawyer from the Accra Law firm to prosecute the Paloma case. The firm sent Cayetano but eventually wanted to "separate him." This was the point the late Cayetano allegedly sought Enrile’s help.

Senator Pia Cayetano confirmed this Thursday via her Twitter account.

Its true, my dad defended starlet Pepsi PalomaRT @ ayeemacaraig : READ: Enrile - rappler.com/nation/20335-e… via @ rapplerdotcom — pia cayetano (@piacayetano) January 24, 2013

My dad not only defended Pepsi, he brought her to our home so we could watch over her and give her a sense of security. — pia cayetano (@piacayetano) January 24, 2013

"I said don’t worry, continue with the case I will put up a law office for you and I put up Pecabar."

Yet he said when Cayetano ran for senator, he borrowed money from the law firm, incurring a debt of P31 million. He brought out a list of the supposed debt but refused to show reporters the paper up close. (In his speech on Wednesday, Enrile said the debt was P37 million.)

Cayetano on Wednesday, January 23, insisted his father supported Enrile and owed him nothing.

"Nung siya’y tumakbong senador, he practically gave his life to you. Nung panahon ni President Cory, kayo’y nakulong, siya ang katabi niyo. Nung panahon ng EDSA Revolution, siya ang katabi niyo. Nung kayo’y payaman nang payaman, siya ay nagtiis din sa law office...I don’t remember he owed you P37 million. My father worked for every single centavo and it’s unfair for you to bring that up," he said in response to Enrile's Wednesday tirade.

'Who funded Cayetanos? GMA'

Enrile also responded to Cayetano’s criticism of his ties to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Tingas.

The Senate President said all Philippine presidents have consulted him about governance, including Arroyo.

"I lent to them whatever I know about the country because modesty aside, I've been in government for 50 years. I know the ins and outs of all the problems in the country. I lent my knowledge not because I want to ingratiate myself to serve the country."

He said even President Benigno Aquino III invited him to a meeting about a national issue lately but he declined because of problems in the Senate.

Enrile turned the tables, pointing to the Cayetano’s own ties to Arroyo.

"In the first place, who financed the candidacy of these Cayetanos to become senators? Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo! Remember Pia Cayetano ran under the banner of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Peter Cayetano also ran under the banner of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo."

Enrile admitted Tinga is his friend and "kumpare." He said Tinga asked his help when Cayetano would refuse to transfer ballots from the 2010 polls to the Commission on Elections for the election protest between him and his wife.

"Yun ang rason bakit pumupunta si Justice Tinga sa akin, he resents it. Pinagbintangan niya pati si [Commissioner Elias] Yusoph ginagamit ko. Walang makakagamit kay Yusoph he’s a very straight man." (That’s the reason Justice Tinga goes to me, he resents it. He even accuses Commissioner Yusoph of being used by me.)

Enrile continued hitting the Cayetanos, Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago and Sen Antonio Trillanes IV.

Asked what he will do if Cayetano makes amends, "I will receive him but that’s about it. Marami nang beses na pumunta sa akin ang mga yan, humingi ng paumanhin pero pati si Miriam pero now I’ve learned a lesson, enough is enough." (They’ve gone to me a lot of times asking for forgiveness, even Miriam.)  – Rappler.com