Gigi Reyes: I wanted Enrile to quit

Ayee Macaraig

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Enrile's chief of staff says sorry but defends her and her boss from critics' 'total lies'

'TRILLANES' WISH.' Enrile's resigned chief of staff lawyer Gigi Reyes says had the Senate President delivered a speech she prepared, Enrile would have already resigned as Senate leader. File photo of Gigi Reyes from "The Honor of the Senate."

MANILA, Philippines – If his chief of staff had her way, Juan Ponce Enrile would no longer be Senate President.

Enrile’s chief of staff lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes revealed that she had prepared a privilege speech for Enrile to tender his irrevocable resignation as Senate President.

She said while Enrile has long thought of resigning, he decided not to deliver the speech.

Reyes made the revelation in her public statement and apology issued on Friday, January 25. While she apologized to Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano in her letter, the bulk of the statement was dedicated to defending herself and Enrile, and explaining the reason for her own irrevocable resignation.

Read her full statement and apology here. 

Reyes said she gave Enrile the speech at noon of Wednesday, January 23. The speech was supposed to respond to allegations Enrile was misusing the Senate budget.

She said she wanted Enrile to deliver the speech after Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano’s own privilege speech that day attacking him over his decision not to give additional funds to his 4 critics.  

Enrile excluded Cayetano, Sen Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Antonio Trillanes IV from receiving P1.6 million each in additional Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) last December.

Reyes said, “The Senate President did not agree to deliver the speech, understandably concerned that with the prevailing howl over the media, the Senate and his colleagues may be unduly placed in a bad light – in particular, with respect to the budgets of the oversight committees that are locally funded by the Senate.”

She added, “The draft speech I prepared also contained a statement towards the end that he was resigning irrevocably as Senate President, something that he had been contemplating since Monday when his motion to declare the position of Senate President vacant was defeated.”

For Reyes, Cayetano’s attacks on her and Enrile preempted the resignation. After Cayetano’s speech, Enrile went personal, digging up the debts of the minority leader’s late father, Sen Renato Cayetano.

“Perhaps, if Senator Cayetano stuck to the real issue, Sen Trillanes would be really happy by now as he would not have to sweat it out just to unseat the Senate President,” Reyes said.

In his speech, Cayetano hit Reyes and Enrile’s ties to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and to his wife Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano’s political rivals.

Cayetano also criticized Enrile for making a motion on Monday, January 21, to declare the position of Senate President vacant only to be outvoted by 11 senators. He said Enrile could have resigned irrevocably. 

Reyes resigned as Enrile’s chief of staff after the exchange between Cayetano and Enrile on Wednesday. Enrile said he is trying to convince her to come back.

Yet Reyes said she decided to leave because unlike Enrile, she wanted him to respond to the charges by delivering the prepared speech to defend his name.

“My resignation is also due to an honest difference of opinion with my principal, the Hon Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, on how to respond to all these mad and baseless accusations of public fund misuse.”

Why not defend Enrile?

In her statement, Reyes explained why she “arrived at this purely personal conviction to convince the Senate President to resign irrevocably.”

Reyes questioned why only a few senators from the majority defended Enrile when the Senate funds controversy broke.  

“It saddened me that only a handful of the Senators in the majority spoke up about the issue which, as things unravelled, already went beyond the unequal distribution of the additional MOOE. Not only was the exercise of discretion by the Senate President in question- it was the budget of the Senate itself,” Reyes said.

“I had expected the other Senators not so much to defend their own leader, but to clarify, explain and defend their own honor and the honor of the Senate.”

Reyes also revealed that she had a “serious disagreement” with Senate Secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes for refusing to name Cayetano in a press statement as the senator calling for a private audit of Senate funds.

Gigi Reyes said Enrile asked the Senate Secretary to prepare that statement to detail the Senate’s budget “so the public can be enlightened.” Yet Lirio-Reyes declined to name Cayetano so as not to appear as if she is defending Enrile. 

“What? Even the Senate Secretary who serves under and at the pleasure of the Senate President was hesitant to set the record straight and confront the issue, fearing that she would be perceived as defending the Senate President?”

Reyes also said she thought Enrile should resign after Sen Antonio Trillanes IV said Enrile might use Senate funds for the campaign of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

‘I’m sorry but you’re lying’

Reyes began her letter by apologizing to Cayetano for calling him a “hypocrite” and just by his first name in a DZMM interview last Monday, January 21.

“I committed a serious ethical breach …. I am sorry that I was driven by my emotional state.”

“My resignation is but proper because of the rightful indignation of Sen. Cayetano and perhaps some of the other Senators. I had no right to speak ill of any Senator while I served in the Senate. … I was carried away by my emotions and for that, I sincerely apologize to Senator Alan Cayetano, to the rest of the Senators, and the listening public whose sensibilities I had offended.”

Yet in the same letter, Reyes branded as a “total lie” Cayetano’s claim that she wielded huge influence in the Senate.

In his speech, Cayetano said Reyes is allowed into senators’ caucus, and senators have to pass through her to get to Enrile.

“I am now being derisively called “the 25th Senator”- that used to be just a joke from some Senators every time they would kindly offer me to take a seat in meetings and caucuses. I never harboured any illusion or delusion that I am or will ever be their equal,” Reyes said.

On the issue of signing cheques on behalf of Enrile, Reyes said she and other staff members were authorized to do so to help a “boss who is almost 89 years old with age-related macular degeneration and high blood pressure problems.”

“As a mere subordinate, I always bow to the wisdom of my principal, and no matter how some people tend to overrate me, my role and my supposed ‘influence’, I cannot substitute, nor can I impose, my analysis and opinion over his own. They give me too much credit and they seem to think the Senate President is a fool. They are grossly mistaken.”

‘Spare us from malicious insinuations’

Reyes also lamented rumors of an affair with her boss. Enrile also denied the reports.

“I still wish that the Senate President’s family and my own family could be spared from the hurt brought about by malicious insinuations and imputations regarding my personal relationship with the Senate President- just to whet and feed the public’s appetite for gossip, to gain political points, and to inflict more pain as if the pain and ugliness we have all witnessed and suffered were not already enough.”

Reyes gave her last word on the Senate savings issue.

“I believe what the public really hungers for is the truth about the officials they elected and how their money is spent or wasted. The people now believe that the Senate stinks…It is sad but I so agree. It is time to look for where the stink is actually coming from.” – 

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