Enrile: Senate coup part of Villar's poll bid

by Purple S. Romero, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Jan 21 2010 12:11 AM | Updated as of Jan 21 2010 09:29 AM

Villar camp says no plan to oust JPE

MANILA, Philippines - Ensuring the victory of Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar in the 2010 elections was the ultimate motive behind the planned coup d’etat in the Senate, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told reporters Wednesday.

The ouster was allegedly hatched to ensure that when Congress starts the canvassing of votes for the president and vice president, Villar’s ally would be at the helm of the upper chamber.

“They want to go further, so that when the time comes for the canvassing of the votes for the vice president and president, the man sitting there as Senate president is a man of Sen. Villar,” Enrile said.

The Senate president also claimed that Sen. Edgardo Angara was picked to replace him.

Allegations of a plot to oust Enrile first arose Tuesday, with the aim of supposedly clearing Villar of charges of unethical conduct.

The Senate Committee of the Whole, chaired by Enrile, filed on Monday committee report no. 780, which sought the censure of Villar for allegedly using his post to realign the C-5 road extension project.

The report, signed by 12 senators, also specified that Villar should pay the government P6.2 billion for its expenses for the realignment.

Enrile expressed confidence, however, that the coup was doomed to fail, as he has a solid number of 13 senators backing him.

“We might be less now, before we were 16, now 13 are left,” he said, adding that Senators Angara, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Lito Lapid and Villar’s running mate, Sen. Loren Legarda, have defected to Villar’s camp.

A work in progress

Meanwhile, Santiago also confirmed that there is a move to unseat Enrile.

"It is a work in progress. I cannot tell a lie: Yes," she said. She added, though that the coup d’etat lacks the support of the majority.

The rumors of a coup were bolstered by the no-show of 11 senators at the plenary yesterday, in effect stalling the sponsorship of committee report no. 780 due to the lack of quorum.

Enrile then mandated the attendance of all 23 senators in the last 7 remaining days of the session.

In an instruction released by the Senate secretariat, Enrile raised Sec. 99 of the Rules of the Senate, which states that the Senate president or presiding officer can "order the sergeant-at-arms to require the appearance of the absent members, or if it is deemed necessary, to order their arrest so as to form the necessary quorum."

What coup?

However, the one who will purportedly take over Enrile’s seat – Angara – just laughed off allegations of a coup d’etat. He said he is not interested in the Senate leadership, a position he held before from 1993-1995.

‘"It's not true. There is no reason for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to be threatened. We already have a capable, decisive leader in the person of Senator Enrile. Why change it barely six days before the Senate goes on a break?" he told reporters.

"Frankly, I'm not interested. I’ve been there," he said.

Senate majority floor leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak that he met Angara at the Renaissance Hotel on Tuesday afternoon to clarify rumors that the Angara was behind the coup plot.

“You’re being eyed as the coup plotter,” Zubiri recalled saying to Angara, but the latter denied it. “He was shocked,” Zubiri added.

‘A campaign issue’

Meanwhile, Enrile challenged Villar to refute the evidence presented before the Committee of the Whole.

The committee report alleged that there was substantial proof which showed that Villar had a hand in the double insertion of P400 million in the 2008 national budget, as funding for the C-5 road extension project.

He said that if Villar chooses to keep his silence, he will bring the matter "to the people."

"It will be a campaign issue," said Enrile, who is supporting former President Joseph Estrada in the May 10 elections.

Enrile also postponed his sponsorship speech for committee report no. 780 to next Monday.

Villar was originally scheduled to deliver a privilege speech on Wednesday, but called it off at the last minute due to a sore throat.

In a text message, Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla said there is "no truth" that Villar is planning to replace Enrile.

"The other camp, from what I know, was the one who started the rumor in order to give more reason for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to get mad," he said.

Villar unfazed by censure

Meanwhile, a calm and relaxed Villar faced ABS-CBN News's Lynda Jumilla, despite the threat of a Senate censure.

Villar is unfazed, even amused, by the demand of 12 senators that he reimburse the government P6.2 billion for the project which allegedly benefited his businesses.

"Alam mong pampulitika lang eh. Alam mong para lang masira ka, ang matandaan ng tao iyong P6 billion. Mismong ako hindi ko maisip kung paano nakarating ng P6 billion," Villar said.

Like his earlier refusal to participate in the ethics trial, Villar also refused to recognize the ethics report signed by the 12 senators.

"Ah, hindi ako naduduwag sa ethics report. Hindi pa nagsisimula ang hearings alam ko na ang desisyon diyan eh... partisan na partisan eh. Ang mga boboto laban sa akin, iyong mga may kandidatong iba sa pagkapangulo. Liberal Party. Pwersa ng Masa, o iyong mga dating kandidato," he said.

Villar downplayed the criticisms that he had no right to run for president if he would not allow himself to be held accountable for his acts.

He said he preferred to argue his case before the media and the public, not in the Senate where he could not expect fair treatment from his political rivals.

"Hindi naman kailangang harapin mo lahat 'yan. Kamukha nga nito. Ang posisyon ng minorya, 'wag kaming pumunta dito. Subalit hindi nangangahulugan na hindi ko kayang sagutin ‘yan. Sinasagot ko sila bawat isang isyu. Wala akong ninakaw dito maski isang piso," he said.

Despite getting him in trouble with his peers, Villar said he does not regret pushing for the C-5 road extension project, a project that he said directly benefits 6 million people, including those in Las Piñas, his hometown and place of business. With a report from Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News