MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile confirmed Wednesday that his relationship with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has gone ice-cold and that she is backing an alleged plot to remove him as Senate President.
Speaking to ANC, Enrile said the animosity between him and the lady senator may have started during the late President Cory Aquino's administration.
He said he opposed Santiago's appointment as agrarian reform secretary because she was caught driving a Customs-seized car.
"I opposed her confirmation because she was using the car of Dr. Arturo Trinidad, vice-president of the [Philippine National Bank], that Trinidad brought to the country when he returned from his masteral studies at Harvard and Stanford," he said.
"Sineize ng Customs. E yung asawa ni Miriam na si Jun Santiago ay nagta-trabaho naman sa Customs. Kinuha yung kotse at binigay sa asawa niya na huwes nun sa Quezon City," he added.
Enrile accused Santiago and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of wanting to oust him as Senate President. He said Santiago never wanted to vote for him as Senate President.
"I think she and another senator are intensely interested in me stepping down as Senate President because I have to put my foot down once in a while when things are not proper in my opinion," he said.
"Nung voting na, Miriam never attended any meeting. She didn't vote for me or want to vote for me even in 2008. She never answered my call. I wanted to go and see her she never received me," he said.
Santiago earlier said Enrile could lose the Senate presidency by January or February 2013 because of his continued opposition to the reproductive health bill. Santiago co-authored the Senate version of the controversial RH bill, while Enrile is strongly against it.
The bill was passed on third and final reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday.
No stalling bicam
In the interview, Enrile denied stalling the bicameral conference committee meeting on the RH bill.
Enrile said the Senate couldn't hold the bicam with the House at 4:30 pm Tuesday because they still didn't have a clean copy of the bill at the time.
He noted only the Senate President can appoint members of the bicam while committee heads like Sen. Pia Cayetano can only make recommendations.
Enrile also said that even if he is opposed to the RH Bill, he respects the majority's decision and will see to it that the Senate version is reflected in the final bill.
"We in the Senate are used to these situations. Once the majority has spoken, that is now the Senate version. We have to see to it that version is carried out," he said.
"We are not delaying. We are much interested in finishing it because it's dividing the country. I hope that division will heal soon enough," he added.
Returning of gifts
Enrile, meanwhile, dispelled rumors that he returned Santiago's Christmas gift because of their differences over the RH Bill.
"No. I returned her Christmas gift not because of the RH bill. I returned it because she said her relationship with me is ice-cold. Second, she got me as a ninong only for status," he said. Enrile is one of Santiago's wedding sponsors.
Meanwhile, the Senate President admitted that a gift sent to him by Sen. Pia Cayetano was returned.
He said this was simply a mistake by his staff who thought he was returning gifts from pro-RH senators.