MANILA, Philippines – A political analyst on Thursday said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile should have addressed the issue on the use of Senate funds instead of resorting to personal attacks against his critic, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
In an interview, political analyst Clarita Carlos said she was surprised that Enrile accused Cayetano’' father, the late Sen. Renato “Compañero” Cayetano, of not paying P37 million in debt for expenses incurred by their Pecabar law firm.
This was after Senator Alan criticized Enrile and his chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, of having a personal agenda against him and 3 other senators by withholding millions of pesos in additional funds.
“Medyo nagulat talaga ako sa kinahinatnan ng ganung privilege speech. Sana nga hindi na bumaba sa ganoong level ng diskurso dahil talagang ang tinutukoy ng speech ni Senator Alan ay alamin na natin at i-determine kung ano talaga yung kaperahan at paano ito madi-disburse,” Carlos said.
“Looking back, he (Enrile) should have kept quiet and addressed the issue… We should also be prudent. Wag tayong magkalkal ng personal,” she added.
The analyst said she does not agree with Enrile’s justification that he is only following the example set by previous Senate presidents when he singled out the 4 senators in not receiving more funds.
“Kahit sabihin mo na ginagawa ito in the past, it doesn’t mean na tama ito,” she said.
She said Enrile should have picked up the challenge of Cayetano to have the Senate’s funds investigated by a private auditing firm.
Carlos said Enrile’s personal attacks could have been brought on by anger after Cayetano's tirade.
She said she hopes the issue will not detract from Enrile’s sterling performance in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year. Enrile presided over the Corona trial that ended with the removal of the Chief Justice for betrayal of public trust.
“Sana ang pangyayari na ito, sana hindi ma-diminish ang very high esteem kay Senate President Enrile na talagang nagperform brilliantly in the impeachment in his later years,” she said.
Chief aide’s clout disturbing
Carlos said she also found disturbing Cayetano’s revelation about the influence of Enrile’s chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, inside the Senate.
She said she was surprised to hear from Cayetano’s speech that Reyes had “overruled” Enrile’s order to give additional funds to the Cayetano siblings, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
“It shows that JPE already signed something and it was in fact overruled by a written directive from the chief of staff. Ang tanong niya – bakit na overturn yung sinign ni JPE? Who is the decision maker?” she asked.
“She can attend the caucus, which should not be the case because a caucus is an internal discussion among only the senators. The fact na nakaka-attend siya, she must have taken on another personality rather than the chief of staff.”
Asked if Reyes’ clout is a cause for concern, Carlos said: “Absolutely. Why should a chief of staff, for heaven’s sake, be given that power to overrule? Assuming for the sake of discussion na wala yun go-signal ni Enrile, di ba, at bakit yun ang nai-implement on the ground. Sobra naman yan makapangyarihan.”
Enrile, however, backed Reyes and said he authorized any decision issued by his chief of staff.
In his privilege speech, Cayetano attacked Reyes for calling senators “hypocrites” after they complained about receiving only P250,000 in additional funds last December. Reyes earlier told radio dzMM that members of the Senate minority are not supposed to get additional funds.
Cayetano, however, said it was Reyes who issued handwritten memos that stopped the disbursement of additional MOOE funds to the 4 senators.
He also said Reyes was allowed to attend caucuses of senators, which other chiefs of staff are barred from doing.
“We allow her not just to join but to speak when there is a caucus. She can freely discuss with the senators as if she is also a senator. Tinanggap ko po yun. We all accepted it out of courtesy and respect,” he said.
He said that from the very start, Reyes refused to give him a small office reserved for the Senate minority leader. He revealed that Reyes’ best friend is a relative of Associate Justice Dante Tinga, who is the political nemesis of Cayetano’s wife, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano.