MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel locked horns after the latter cracked a joke about Roxas's statements defending himself against claims that he and his colleagues were "ganging up" on Senator Manuel Villar.
Legislators on Monday took up a report of the Senate Committe of the Whole on Villar's alleged unethical conduct for inserting an additional P200-million allocation in the 2008 national budget for the construction of a road that would hike up the value of his real estate properties in the area.
"My name was mentioned in the context that we are ganging up, that this is all political, that we are using insertions, when he (Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano) said in a blanket statement that we had insertions," Roxas said.
"I say no. I had no insertion on any matter. In fact, I have no insertion, period. Because we're in the minority! Let alone an insertion for a road to pass through any such property," Roxas said.
Pimentel answered: "Well, well, I am sure that after your marriage, you had some insertions."
"But that may be different," he added.
The comment prompted laughter from those seated in the gallery, but angered Roxas. "That is an affront on my wife (Korina Sanchez), Mr. President!" he said.
Roxas immediately demanded that Pimentel's statement be removed from the official transcript of the Senate session.
Verbal tussles like these were common during the plenary session as tempers among opposing camps flared.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ma. Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal continued accusing Villar of unethical conduct and violating the 1987 Constitution for failing to divest himself of controlling shares in real estate firms that earned billions of pesos in taxpayer's money over road right-of-way projects.
Enrile said there was clear and concrete evidence that Villar violated the law.
Madrigal also accused Villar allies of "railroading" Senate Resolution 1472, signed by Villar and 11 other Senators, that calls for the dismissal of complaints against Villar, who is the Nacionalista Party standard-bearer.
Madrigal also said that Villar was "making a mockery of proceedings by not appearing and letting [a] choo-choo train of lawyers defend him."
Pimentel shot back saying Madrigal should use parliamentary language instead of words like "choo-choo."
Linked to election campaign?
Meanwhile, Cayetano accused opposing parties of using the C-5 issue to boost their election campaigns.
Cayetano questioned why the ethics case was being deliberated upon on the Senate floor, when most of its members are presidential or vice-presidential candidates in the 2010 elections.
Senators who support accusations against Villar include Liberal Party candidates Benigno 'Noynoy Aquino' and Mar Roxas; independent presidential candidate Jamby Madrigal, and re-electionist Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino).
Meanwhile, Villar allies who are running this 2010 are vice presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda (Nationalist People's Coalition); re-electionist Senators Jinggoy Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Pia Cayetano (Nacionalista Party), Lito Lapid (Lakas-Kampi), Ramon Revilla Jr. (Lakas-Kampi), and Miriam Defensor-Santiago (People's Reform Party).