MANILA, Philippines – On his first day as acting Senate President, Sen Jinggoy Estrada called on President Benigno Aquino III to replace Malacañang's chief legislative liaison, whom he blamed for a number of bills vetoed by the President.
In a press briefing on Thursday, June 6, Estrada blamed Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Manuel Mamba for the lack of coordination between Malacañang and Congress.
Malacañang said Aquino has vetoed 71 bills since he became President in 2010, including the centenarians bill, the rights of internally displaced persons bill, and the magna carta for the poor.
“Palagay ko kay Mamba dapat isisi iyon kasi ‘di ko talaga nakikita iyon eh,” Estrada said. “Sa dami ng bills na na-veto siguro dapat palitan na ang head ng PLLO.” (I think the blame falls on Mamba because I hardly see him. With all the vetoed bills, President Aquino should replace the head of PLLO.)
Mamba was appointed PLLO chief in February 2012, while the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona was ongoing. Political observers thought it was a bad move for the Palace to do this at a time when it needed Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was presiding the trial, on its side.
Enrile and Mamba have been bitter rivals in local politics in Cagayan province for decades.
Informed of Estrada's call, Mamba told Rappler that since he became PLLO chief, coordination with the Senate was done through Undersecretary Antonio Gallardo "because the Senate President refused to deal with me because of our political differences in Cagayan."
Mamba said President Aquino "was informed of this setup since I assumed" the post.
"I serve at the pleasure of the President.... I can go anytime PNoy would say so," Mamba said.
A close ally of resigned Senate President Enrile, Estrada admitted that Mamba is “not in good terms” with Enrile, leading to a lack of coordination between their offices.
Administration ally Franklin Drilon, who is expected to become new Senate President, also admitted in a previous interview that Enrile and Mamba lack coordination because of politics in Cagayan. Their families are political rivals in the province.
Estrada said Mamba did not coordinate with senators in the passage of bills, unlike his predecessors.
“The first time I saw his face was in the Senate lounge. It was during the sin tax discussion, unlike former [Bataan] Cong [Antonino] Roman and the PLLO head of Gloria [Arroyo], who was always there. He should touch base not just with the Senate President but also with the senators,” Estrada said.
“This guy never paid any courtesy call,” Estrada added.
Estrada also said that the PLLO chief must ensure that the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) is convened every quarter to improve the coordination between the two branches of government.
Besides Drilon, other administration allies like Sen Antonio Trillanes IV and Sergio Osmeña III also called on the PLLO to take a more active role in keeping track of the measures pending before Congress.
As Senate President Pro-Tempore, Estrada was designated acting Senate President after Enrile resigned on Wednesday, June 5.
Enrile stepped down after defending himself from the Senate fund controversy and blasting his critics. He said the smear campaign against him destroyed his name and derailed the senatorial candidacy of his son, outgoing Cagayan Rep Jack Enrile.
‘We were on the verge of tears’
Estrada reiterated that he did not know Enrile was going to resign on Wednesday.
He said among the 3 other members of the macho bloc – himself, Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, and Sen Gregorio Honasan II, he was closest to Enrile but was still not informed about his resignation.
Estrada said had he known, he would have advised his mentor to do otherwise.
“[I will tell him,] ‘Manong it would be useless for you to resign with only two session days to go,’” Estrada said.
The acting Senate president narrated how he accompanied Enrile on his way out of the Senate.
“I was on the verge of tears 'nung hinatid ko si Manong Johnny. I can feel his feeling, nasasaktan. Sabi niya, ‘Jinggoy, kaya mo iyan. I will still be there to guide you’ (I was on the verge of tears when I accompanied him. I feel his feeling of hurt. He told me, 'Jinggoy, you can do it')."
Estrada said Enrile’s staff and Senate employees were also “on the verge of tears” because Enrile was popular as a Senate leader.
Yet he said he understood Enrile’s decision. “Siguro napuno na rin ang tao. He’s already 89. He doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment, pambabatikos, pangugutya. Para wala na ring masabi ang mga kritiko niya (Maybe he also had enough. He’s already 89. He doesn’t deserve the criticism and ridicule. He resigned perhaps to silence his critics)." – Rappler.com