MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada rejected Tuesday that he followed a script in Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's "masterstroke" to keep the Senate presidency.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Estrada said he was unaware that Enrile planned to declare his position vacant on Monday. He said he met with Enrile and his chief aide, Gigi Reyes, before Monday's session but had no inkling about the contents of his speech.
"Wala akong nababasang script e. When I was asked to preside, I did not know he will avail of the privilege hour and that he wanted to deliver a speech," he said.
He also twitted Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV for saying that Enrile's allies followed a script to ensure that his motion would be rejected.
"Hindi naman scripted. Bago siya magsalita, mag-isip muna siya ," he said.
Enrile on Monday moved to declare his position vacant to allow his staunchest critics - Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano and Pia Cayetano - or any other senator willing to oust him and take over. The motion was rejected by 11 senators present.
Trillanes said Enrile timed the move to take advantage of the absence of the two Cayetanos. He also noted the moves of Estrada and Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto to reject Enrile's motion.
Estrada, however, denied any knowledge of Enrile's plan. "Ako nabulaga. Kahit si Majority Leader Sotto nabigla din."
He also said it was natural for him to back Enrile since they belong to the same party, the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
No Palace go-signal
Estrada said Trillanes' pronouncements that Enrile would soon be ousted do not have the backing of Malacañang.
He said he talked to 4 Liberal Party senators - Franklin Drilon, TG Guingona, Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto - who confirmed they do not have instructions from President Aquino to oust Enrile.
"Wala namang go signal ang Malacanang dahil kung meron, matagal nang nangyari," he said.
The senator noted the Palace cannot remove Enrile especially since two key measures, the reproductive health bill and the sin tax bill, were passed under his leadership last year.
"Walang problema ang Malacañang sa amin. RH bill and sin tax bill kahit na against kami dun, naipasa," he said.
'House minority don't get PDAF'
Estrada said he sees nothing wrong with Enrile's decision not to give additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds to his 4 critics.
He said the same thing happens in the House of Representatives under Speaker Sonny Belmonte Jr.
"Nangyayari yan sa lahat ng branches ng government pati sa executive. Halimbawa, sa panahon ni dating Pangulong Gloria (Arroyo) pati ngayon sa ilalim ni President Aquino, lahat ng mga minority hindi binibigyan," he said.
"Dun sa House of Representatives, lahat ng minority hindi nakakatanggap ng MOOE. Ganun din sa Senado, discretion ng Senate President," he added.
Estrada said he does not know if he also got additional MOOE when Senators Drilon and Manny Villar headed the Senate. He said he usually does not ask other senators about the additional MOOE that they receive at the end of the year.
"Hindi ko alam kung mas malaki o mas maliit. Hindi kami nagkukumpara. It is unethical for a senator to compare with another senator kung ano ang binibigay ng Senate President," he said.
Santiago earlier confirmed that Enrile gave away P1.6 million each in additional MOOE to 18 senators, without giving the same to her, Trillanes, and the Cayetanos.
She later returned a P250,000 check from Enrile after the Senate President returned her own Christmas gift.