MANILA (5th UPDATE) - Pulling a fast one against his critics, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday moved to give up his post amid an ouster move, but majority of the senators voted to keep him as their leader.
In a privilege speech, Enrile said “I move that the position be declared vacant,” and said that one of his critics in the chamber--Senators Miriam Santiago, Antonio Trillanes, and siblings Pia Cayetano and Alan Peter Cayetano--be given the chance to be nominated Senate president.
However, Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto, Enrile's staunch ally, moved to reject the offer, which was backed by a majority of 11 senators, including members of the administration Liberal Party.
The 11 senators who voted against declaring the Senate presidency vacant are:
Only three voted in favor of Enrile's motion (Antonio Trillanes, Koko Pimentel, Enrile), while 2 abstained (Joker Arroyo, Bongbong Marcos).
Enrile hits Miriam, Trillanes
In his speech, Enrile said: “In their passionate desire to destroy me, my enemies and critics have not only dragged the reputation of my other colleagues, wildly accusing them of taking bribes and pocketing the people’s money. They have succeeded as well in placing this very institution, the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, under a dark cloud of doubt and suspicion as a house of thieves."
On Santiago, he said: “Senator Santiago has questioned the moral right and integrity of my most cantankerous critic. Her audacity in calling her colleagues my 'cohorts' and painting them as crooks is indeed mind-boggling. When it was her turn to be challenged regarding her own integrity and to be called 'a hypocrite par excellence,' it seems was enough to pose a danger to her own health and whatever remains of her equanimity and sanity.”
Without naming Trillanes, he said: “One Senator is so desperate that he has repeatedly and shamelessly invoked and sought Malacañang’s involvement and intervention just to get enough support to oust me. He continues to make a mockery of the Senate as an independent institution.”
In asking that his position be declared vacant, Enrile said he doesn't want to drag his colleagues into the mud especially since allegations are only directed at him. “But the Senate need not and should not suffer the venom which is aimed solely at me.”
He said: “The honor of this chamber must be spared from the rapacity and the sly, cunning and ruinous machinations of some people among us who only have their political ambition and self-interest in mind,” he said.
Enrile aide calls critics 'hypocrites'
Meantime, Enrile's chief of staff came to his defense anew and called senators’ critics in the upper chamber “hypocrites.”
Despite today's vote which saw 11 out of 16 senators present vote to keep Enrile's leadership, lawyer Gigi Reyes told radio dzMM that her boss will refile the motion to vacate his post to give a chance for the absent senators to vote.
"Gusto niya mas merong attendance because 'yung mga main critics niya wala dun, baka sabihin nila, 'Kaya niya dineliver [ang privilege speech], alam niyang wala kami','" she said.
She also claimed that Enrile’s critics are always the first ones to ask the Senate president for additional funds.
Asked how she knows this, Reyes said: “I am the chief of staff of the Office of the Senate President and I am the one who works directly with the Senate secretary with all the administrative and finance matters that are for the Senate President's signature and approval."
In the case of Trillanes, she said it was Enrile who added P5 million to Trillanes' funds because he only handles one committee.
"The majority suggested na we create an oversight committee on government procurement which originally had a budget of less than P10 million... For the 2013 budget, it was the Senate President who suggested that we increase [the budget of] those who only have P1 [million] to P15 million, dahil unfair naman na 'yung iba may P30 million na oversight budget."
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has not returned any additional cash approved by Enrile’s office, she also said.
"We have to expose these hypocrites. Ilegal ba? Bakit hanggang ngayon, si Senator Miriam Santiago ibinalik niya, bakit si Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, kinuha niya? Bakit 'yung last year, kinuha niya, nung 2008 kinuha niya, nung 2009 kinuha niya, nung 2010 kinuha niya, nung 2011 kinuha niya, 'yung 2012 hindi pa niya binabalik?"
She said the Senate president does not approve additional cash during Christmas unless there's a request. "Hindi namimigay si Senator Enrile, kinakantsawan siya ng mga kasamahan niya, 'May pamasko ba?' Lagi siyang nangungunang mangantsaw, si Alan [Cayetano]. This year, ang nangantsaw, may dalawang senador, hindi na namin binanggit."
She also lambasted Senator Pia Cayetano for her comments against Enrile in connection with the Reproductive Health law.
"Nung kainitan ng RH Bill, nakiusap siya kay Senate President na, 'Pwede ba Tito Johnny, huwag ka na lang mag-interpellate pa, huwag mo na ituloy.' Sabi ni Senate Presidente, 'Sige para hindi na tumagal, hindi na'."
Cayetano, however, later accused Enrile of derailing the process, Reyes said.
On Senator Santiago, she said: "Senator Miriam, while it is true na hindi siya official na sa minority, she has never attended any caucus of the Senate President, of the majority and she's been attacking the Senate President." -- with a report from Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News