Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Sunday dragged two more Senate leaders into his feud with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in an apparent attempt to prove the intense pressure to get him to agree to the bill dividing Camarines Sur (CamSur) into two provinces.
Trillanes said Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III called him separately on Monday last week when local government committee chairman Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivered his sponsorship speech on the measure.
Trillanes said Estrada and Sotto had called him “so I would withdraw my reservation to interpellate (Marcos) so they could go ahead and approve it.”
Under Senate rules, any senator can interpellate the head of the committee that held public hearings on a bill.
Marcos proposed to take away the fourth district of Camarines Sur and turn it into a new province to be called Nueva Camarines. Trillanes claimed the move was meant to accommodate two third-term congressmen—Luis Villafuerte and Arnulfo Fuentebella—who needed new local positions to run for in 2013 once their terms expired.
Trillanes made a reservation to interpellate Marcos on the CamSur bill on Monday but was not able to make it to the session hall because he got sick.
A pending reservation bars the Senate from approving a bill.
Estrada and Sotto confirmed that they talked to Trillanes about the bill but denied that they were pressuring him to give up his right to interpellate.
In a phone interview, Estrada said he chanced upon Marcos in the session hall talking to someone on the phone around the time he delivered his sponsorship speech.
Estrada surmised it was Trillanes that Marcos was talking to and asked him. Marcos handed him the phone.
‘Let’s not hostage the bill’
“I simply asked him, ‘Sonny (Trillanes’ nickname), huwag na lang nating i-hostage ang bill. Huwag na nating patagalin since this is also for the people of Camarines Sur’ (Let’s not keep the bill ‘hostage’ anymore. Let’s not delay it because this is for the people of Camarines Sur),” Estrada recalled saying.
The Senate Pro Tempore said he assured Trillanes he would not be deprived of his right to interpellate.
Estrada proposed that even if the CamSur bill was approved on second reading, Trillanes would still be given a chance to interpellate Marcos before the Senate approved the bill on third and final reading.
Sotto, in a series of text messages to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, confirmed that he also talked to Trillanes on the phone. He also confirmed the proposal to move the CamSur bill past its second reading and described it as a “parliamentary strategy that would ease the lobby on the Senate leadership yet allow (Trillanes) to interpellate the following day (Sept. 18) or on Wednesday (Sept. 19).”
“I was pointblank,” Sotto said in a text message. He continued: “I told (Trillanes) if he wanted the bill rejected, we will not be in the way and may even be able to help. But we have to follow the rules of Congress, considering this is a local bill,” he added.
But instead of listening, Sotto said Trillanes “accused me of some sort of game plan. That’s why I gave back the phone to Bongbong (Marcos) and said, ‘I can’t talk to (Trillanes).’”
On Wednesday, Trillanes came out and delivered a privilege speech denouncing Enrile for alleged “bullying” to get the CamSur bill passed.
He said Enrile was not only trying to accommodate Villafuerte, who was constantly seen in the Senate lobbying for the bill, but also former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had reportedly called the Senate President to indicate that she wanted the bill approved.
‘Fellow solon will back me’
In an interview Sunday, Trillanes said a fellow senator, whom he would not name, could attest to this.
“A senator told me there was really a call from GMA (Arroyo’s initials). I will not say who this senator is but I can assure you this is A-1 information,” the former military officer added.
Trillanes also said of Enrile: “Talagang matindi ang utang na loob kay GMA. Tinawagan ito kaya nagkukumahog. Doon ako nawalan ng respeto at bilib sa kanya. Tawag lang pala ni GMA, nanginginig na. (Enrile owes GMA a big debt of gratitude. She called and he couldn’t move fast enough. That’s when I lost my respect and admiration for him. All it took was a call from GMA and he was shaking.”
The young senator also twitted Enrile for diverting the attention of the public from the CamSur issue to his China mission.
Said Trillanes: “So what were the favors I made for China? Did he mention anything? You know Senator Enrile, people use the term ‘naglulubid ng buhangin’ for what he is doing. Natatandaan nyo, ito ang taong nagpeke ng kanyang ambush tapos paniniwalaan natin na parang Santo Papa (Remember, this is the person who faked his ambush (just before the declaration of martial law) and now we believe everything he says as if he were the Pope)?”
The Inquirer tried to get Enrile’s comments on this statement. His media staff, however, said the Senate President was resting.