If President Aquino were involved in the plot to oust him in connection with the reproductive health (RH) and sin tax measures, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Sunday he would respect the President’s decision.
Malacañang, however, said the President’s relationship with Enrile remained good and that an ouster move against the Senate President would only complicate Monday’s crucial vote on the RH bill.
In a radio interview, Enrile tagged Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes IV as those leading the ouster move, but he voiced doubts the President had a hand in it.
“I don’t think the President has anything to do with it. Even if he does, I will respect his decision,” Enrile said in an interview over radio station dzBB.
He said he had good relations with the President, but couldn’t say the same thing of Mr. Aquino’s allies.
Enrile said the President was aware of his position on the RH and sin tax bills, and his involvement with the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, which was fielding its own senatorial candidates against the administration slate.
Ahead of Monday’s vote on second reading of the RH bill in the Senate, Santiago told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday that she expected Enrile to lose the Senate presidency in January or February because of his fierce opposition to the measure.
Quoting Trillanes and “certain VIPs” in Malacañang, Santiago said the executive department was “concerned” over Enrile’s opposition not only to the RH bill but also to the sin tax measure.
The President’s deputy spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, said that so far, Mr. Aquino has “good relations” with Enrile.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, senior political adviser to the President, said it would not be prudent to mix up any ouster move with the crucial vote on the RH bill.
Enrile said Santiago and Trillanes were angry with him. “I’m at the disposal of the senators. I have no Torrens title to it (Senate presidency). If they have the numbers, they should just tell me,” he said.
Enrile challenged Santiago to file an ethics complaint against him for his decision to return her Christmas gift. He said Santiago’s gift did not carry a personal message and thought it was sent by mistake to his office.
“If she felt insulted, that’s her problem. She can file a complaint against me with the ethics committee. There’s nothing dishonorable about it. If one doesn’t want to be my friend why should I force myself on the person? Miriam did not vote for me as Senate President,” he said.
Santiago resented that Enrile returned her gift, saying this could be an offshoot of their differing positions on the RH bill.
Recalling their past working relationship, Enrile said he took Santiago in as his assistant while he was justice secretary because she had good academic record despite a “low grade” in the bar exams.
He said he had also accepted her membership in the Senate majority on Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.’s intercession.
Enrile said he opposed Santiago’s confirmation as agrarian reform secretary during the Aquino administration because she failed to return the car of one Poch Trinidad, then vice president of Philippine National Bank, when she was still a judge.
Originally posted: 6:16 pm | Sunday, December 16th, 2012