Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s pronouncement that he was willing to be replaced by a younger colleague only proves he does not intend to “cling to power” as some critics allege, said Sen. Gregorio Honasan.
But Honasan said Enrile’s statement should not be interpreted as “deliberately precipitating” a Senate reorganization before the 2013 elections.
Aquino ally Sen. Sergio Osmeña III suggested they wait until after the 2013 elections to replace Enrile because there remained much to do in the nine days left of the 15th Congress. Enrile himself said the Senate was pressed to approve an antitrust bill and amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The Senate is also awaiting the version of the freedom of information (FOI) bill that the House of Representatives is expected to approve. Once it does, the two chambers would have to reconcile their versions so an FOI law could be produced before the 15th Congress ends its third and final session.
Osmeña said the choice of Enrile’s replacement should be made after the May elections.
“Now is not the time to change the Senate leadership with only three weeks of the session left until the long break,” he said in a text message.
The buzz was that some administration-linked senators wanted Enrile out, noting that his positions on several major issues did not represent those of the majority bloc. But with only three weeks of the session remaining, some senators see no compelling reason to replace Enrile, one of the leaders of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) coalition.
Sen. Tito Sotto said talk of Enrile’s exit would usher in the possibility of his own exit as Senate majority leader. Sotto said he actually welcomed the idea since leaving the post “means more time for “my family and myself.”
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said he was not surprised that Enrile himself broached the possibility of his being replaced.
“I have heard JPE (Enrile’s initials) say privately that come June 2013 he would offer to be replaced as Senate President because he is not getting any younger,” Pimentel said in a text message to the Inquirer.
“Allowing younger blood to take over and…admitting that he himself is not indispensable” deserves a word of “congratulations,” he added.
Sen. Francis Escudero said he said “no compelling issue” to have a change of leadership at this time.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Bong Revilla used the word “mentor” in describing Enrile’s role in their learning process as lawmakers.
Estrada admitted he was overcome by a “sense of loss (panghihinayang)” at the statement of Enrile, his party mate.
Revilla admitted there were instances when he and Enrile had “differences of opinion” but Enrile “succeeded in transcending party lines, ensuring that the Senate works for the people.”
Honasan noted that Enrile had already been delegating some functions to the younger senators.
For example, Enrile leaves the rostrum within minutes of banging the gavel and opening the session. Estrada as President Pro Tempore presides over the most part of the afternoon plenary sessions although Honasan and Sen. Loren Legarda are also called upon to do so.
Rumors of a coup against the Senate President were fanned recently by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Santiago, who huffed that Enrile had returned her Christmas gift, said her sources had intimated that Enrile may be removed as Senate President in January or February. Estrada and Sotto were also in danger of being removed, she claimed.
“It is illogical for Enrile to remain as Senate President, while campaigning for the opposition. It becomes untenable” she said, noting that Enrile’s UNA was fielding candidates against President Aquino’s Liberal Party-led administration coalition.
Santiago guessed the issue would be resolved before the Senate breaks by the end of February.