While calling herself a “complete pariah” when it came to power plays in the Senate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago nevertheless hinted that a new majority in the upper chamber could just be waiting for a signal before it ousts Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
“Sa tingin ko, may inaantay lang sila (The way I see it, they are just waiting for something).
“Wait for it,” she added in a radio interview.
Santiago said it was likely that Enrile would be replaced for his noncooperative stand on two administration measures—the reproductive health (RH) bill and the measure raising sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol products.
Enrile is staunchly against the RH bill. He also expressed concern over possible adverse effects of raising taxes on tobacco on farmers from northern Luzon where it is a principal crop.
“We cannot say exactly what goes on inside the mind of President Aquino but if the Senate President does not give his support to (administration) measures, the President might consider looking for someone who would be more supportive,” Santiago said in Filipino.
Santiago said politicians tended to accommodate a sitting President.
“That is the tendency, to always agree with the President even if they do not necessarily join his party,” she said.
Santiago, however, clarified that she was not being asked to join a new majority, in case one was being formed clandestinely at this point.
“I am not getting any calls. I’m a complete pariah when it comes to (Senate) reorganizations. My colleagues know I don’t care about intrigues,” she said.
But asked if noncooperation with regard to the two urgent bills could cost Enrile his coveted seat, Santiago said: “Oh, definitely. His time horizon will definitely grow shorter if the two bills are not passed.”
Santiago added that Enrile could not rely on his popularity rating as a deterrent against any effort to replace him since President Aquino, who might support efforts to remove him, is more popular based on the same surveys.
Santiago also dismissed repeated pronouncements made by Malacañang that the executive branch is not involved in any effort to replace Enrile.
“Well, they cannot announce ‘we are replacing him’ so they have to keep saying those clichés. Remember that Malacañang keeps score of how cooperative senators are. All administrations are like that,” she said.
“Assuming for the sake of argument that the Senate President is really as popular as the press releases say, in any event, there is no question President Aquino is much more popular. If (Enrile) contradicts the President, his popularity could go even lower than at present,” Santiago said.
She reminded Enrile that “all Senate Presidents hold their positions…at the discretion of their fellow senators and of the President who is in power at the time. They do not have permanent security of tenure.”
Rumors of a move to oust Enrile have been floating around since December 2011. At the time, Sen. Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party was being touted as his replacement.
Drilon has consistently denied these reports.
Only Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of the Nacionalista Party has admitted working for Enrile’s ouster.