MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The word war between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV continued Friday, with Enrile saying he received information that Trillanes linked Budget Secretary Butch Abad to a planned Senate coup.
The claim, however, was dismissed by both Trillanes and Abad.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Enrile said a "very respected religious leader" overheard Trillanes allegedly started talking about a plan to remove Enrile as Senate leader.
He said the leader told him that Trillanes bragged about "Butch Abad authorizing the move" to unseat him.
Enrile said he immediately dismissed the information because he knew Abad.
"He did not realize Butch is a good friend of mine...I did not give any credence to that. I knew that he was talking hot air. He was boasting," he said of Trillanes.
Abad also denied the allegation that he authorized a coup plot against Enrile.
"It is absolutely not true. In the first place, why will we do that to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who has proven to be a reliable ally of the President? That is simply preposterous," he said in a statement.
Trillanes also dismissed Enrile’s claim as sowing intrigue. “Let me also clarify that Secretary Butch Abad has no knowledge of any attempt to unseat Sen. Enrile as senate president. Sen Enrile is just sowing intrigue between me and the Palace,” he said.
The younger senator said he is heeding President Aquino’s request to refrain from making any further comments regarding his role as the back channel negotiator to China.
In the interview, Enrile said he already knew that Trillanes was working to remove him as Senate President even before the younger senator bolted the majority last Wednesday.
He, however, said he did not know that Trillanes would attack him in his privilege speech.
"I did not know. As far as I am concerned, we are happy we are relieved of him," he said.
He added that he was surprised when Trillanes started questioning him about the gerrymandering of Camarines Sur province.
Enrile said he had prepared his own speech to ask Trillanes about his unauthorized trips to China, which he first found out during a Cabinet meeting. He said he thought Trillanes would use his privilege speech to defend himself after a Philippine Daily Inquirer story revealed his role as a backchannel negotiator.
He said Trillanes should have sought permission from him about his trips as well as informed the Philippine Embassy in Beijing about his whereabouts.
Malacañang has confirmed Trillanes worked secretly as a backchannel negotiator with China at the height of the Scarborough Shoal dispute.