MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Senator Juan Ponce Enrile irrevocably resigned as Senate president at the close of the 15th Congress this week.
In his valedictory speech, Enrile said: “I refuse to lend my hard-earned name as a convenient refuge to those who cannot face the public and defend their own honor. I refuse to allow anybody, whether in or outside the halls of this Chamber, to just freely trample upon the name that my late father, Alfonso Ponce Enrile, had so kindly allowed me to carry with pride.”
Enrile was referring to the controversy early this year after he released around P1.6 million as additional “maintenance and other operating expenditures” (MOOE) to 18 colleagues from “savings” of the chamber in 2012.
He released P250,000 to 4 senators whom the Senate president doesn't see eye-to-eye on a number of issues--the Cayetano siblings, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Senator Antonio Trillanes.
“I suffered the anger of the public as the media branded all that I had authorized for release to the Senators' offices last December as my personal ‘CASH GIFTS’ no matter how hard I tried to explain the nature of these disbursements from the Senate's coffers and my own office's savings,” he said.
He said he will not allow any senator, specifically a “self-confessed psychological case” and “the son of my former partner, the late Senator Renato L. Cayetano” to trample on his name.
“I do not need nor intend to use the powers, perquisites and trappings of the Senate Presidency just to cling to it or to secure this position for myself when the 16th Congress opens in July…Let us all be men and women worthy of being called "Honorable Senators." And let the chips fall where they may,” he said.
He said it’s about time that each and every senator answer and be accountable to the Senate’s reputation. He said it is not just about moving on after the mid-term elections, where his son lost.
He said the Senate is not just about Juan Ponce Enrile.
“I will leave each of my colleagues to explain directly to the people who elected them their respective positions on these issues and to account for their own budgets, as I have always been ready to account for my own. I can no longer speak for them. I refuse to be anyone's scapegoat and everyone's whipping boy,” he said.
He said he was left alone when the backlash came because of the “cash gifts” he gave to colleagues.
PASSING THE BUCK
Enrile said it was impossible for him to satisfy every senator, citing the problems in the Senate with respect to its oversight committees.
“Senator [Frank] Drilon, as Chairman of the Finance Committee, knows only too well how the apportionment of the chairmanships over these oversight committees can be a real headache for any Senate President. He was the first one to call my attention to it at the beginning of this Congress,” Enrile said.
He said the senators view the chairmanships of these oversight committees as a form of entitlement, and ”it was impossible for me to satisfy everyone.”
He hopes that Drilon would be able to find a solution to “adequately satisfy” each of his colleagues.
Drilon is being eyed by the administration to replace Enrile.
'JACK BEARS BRUNT'
Enrile noted the setback suffered by his son in the mid-term elections.
“The common analysis of political observers was that my son's candidacy suffered from the fall-out of the bitter criticisms and accusations hurled against me by some people in this Chamber who I had displeased, just as we were entering the political campaign season.”
He said he endured all the pain suffered by his son.
“He carried on his shoulders the weight of all the mud thrown against me. As I stayed and watched quietly by the side lines, my heart bled for him.”
Enrile said it’s time for him to go. He said he already knew this even before all votes came in to bring victory to the administration senatorial candidates.
“Even as millions of votes were still unaccounted for, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad already foresaw the outcome. He was quoted as saying that the first order of the day when Congress opens in July is to replace me as Senate President and to re-elect Speaker Belmonte as Speaker of the House,” he said.
He said old age may have impaired his vision, but “I can still see and read clearly the handwriting on the wall. I need not be told by anyone when it is time for me to go.”
'QUTTING DOESN'T ADDRESS ISSUE'
Meantime, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said Enrile should have first settled the controversy over the Senate's finances before quitting his post.
Cayetano, who won another 6-year term in the mid-term elections, gave a piece of his mind minutes after Enrile tendered his irrevocable resignation.
“I feel bad about it. Naaawa ako. I think he deserves to go out as Senate President with a pat on his back despite the issues…but as a public official, all of us have to be accountable," Cayetano said.
Cayetano said Enrile only left more questions than answers. “Until now, he has not released the documents from the Senate [to account for the allegations made].”
He said that if Enrile wants to clean his name, “the solution is not to resign but face it directly.”
Cayetano defended himself, saying transparency and accountability should be paramount. He said he did not call for Enrile’s resignation and remained silent months into and during the elections.
“Kung ano man ang sinapit nila, sarili na nila iyon. Huwag kaming idamay,” Cayetano said.
He said accountability remains the challenge for the incoming Senate President.
“Iyon ang haharapin [new Senate President] kung papaano sasabihin sa publiko na ang bawat barya ay para sa public purpose,” Cayetano said.
TRILLANES: LOOK WHO'S TALKING
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, another Enrile critic, said the Senate president's resignation speech was mere theatrics and "rants from a bitter man."
"We just heard some rants from a bitter man. And we just gave him his moment," he told ANC.
Trillanes said Enrile pre-empted the inevitable since Drilon had the numbers to replace Enrile as Senate president.
He said he is looking forward to the new Senate leadership and expects it to perform better than the leadership in the 15th Congress.
Trillanes also twitted Enrile for calling for more transparency and accountability in the next Congress.
He said: “We will be more accountable and transparent this time and at the same time, we will be auditing and during the opening of the 16th Congress particularly his office.”
“For him to talk about transparency and accountability, well he is not exactly a paragon of accountability and transparency. Being a martial law administrator, those words don’t mean anything coming from Senator Enrile,” he added.
Trillanes was one of 4 senators who openly called for the removal of Enrile as Senate president.
He earlier accused Enrile of having tyrannical tendencies, and said the former martial law administrator is a lackey of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
PALACE: ENRILE HELPED PASS ADMIN BILLS
Meantime, Malacanang said Enrile will remain a “voice” in the upper House.
“As one of the veteran members of the Senate, his voice, views, and expertise in the legislative process will continue to contribute to the crafting of laws and the deliberations of the upper house,” said the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson.
Enrile was Senate president for 1,661 days, or four years, six months, and 19 days,
“Throughout his senate presidency, Senator Enrile on the whole, supported the enactment of the Aquino administration's priority bills. Conscious of the long and distinguished history of the Senate and the office he held, Senator Enrile approached the constitution functions of the Senate in our bicameral legislative system with the utmost seriousness,” the Palace said.
Malacanang also noted Enrile’s policy of independence and oversight.
DRILON: RETURN MONEY TO TREASURY
Drilon said there is no bad blood between him and Enrile. He said electing a new set of officers in the 16th Congress is required under the Constitution.
He also said he is not keen on reopening the issue on the Senate “cash gifts” which Enrile disbursed last year.
“Siguro, Karen, wag na hong ungkatin ngayon. Yun naman ay mas mabuti leave it to the two gentlemen. Sila po ay mayroong mandate sa tao at hindi po natin pwede madiktahan. They are properly elected senators of the land. They are elected servants of the people,” he said, referring to Enrile and Cayetano.
He also said that during his previous term as Senate President, he made sure that he returned Senate savings to the Treasury.
“Nuong mga nakaraang taon, may isinosoli ang Senado sa kaban ng bayan. Talagang kung sobra ang dumating na opera sa senado, dapat isoli,” he said. -- with reports from David Dizon, Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com