MANILA, Philippines—A warning against displeasing Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
This was the message behind the exclusion of four senators from the list of those who got P1.6 million each in additional budget from the Senate savings, Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano said.
“[Enrile] wanted to send a message to all the senators: ‘If you cross [me], this is what happens,’” Cayetano told reporters at a dinner on Thursday. “This definitely sends a chilling effect [and sets] a bad precedent,” he added.
Enrile came under fire on Tuesday after an unnamed senator accused him of committing an “unconstitutional” and “unconscionable” act of converting Senate savings to additional MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) and distributing these to selected senators.
Cayetano, along with Senators Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes IV, known Enrile critics in the Senate, received only P250,000 each as additional MOOE instead of the P1.6 million given to 18 other senators.
Cayetano said he is issuing this warning to Enrile’s allies in the Senate because they could suffer the same fate if they suddenly found themselves in the minority bloc.
He added that Enrile’s selective approach in the issuance of additional MOOE ran counter to his campaign slogan, “Gusto Ko, Happy Ka! (I want you to be happy!)”
“The new rule is, ‘Gusto Ko, Ako Ang Happy (I want me to be happy).’ And if he’s happy with you, you get P1.6 million,” the minority leader noted.
The more dangerous thing, he added, is that Enrile’s act of exclusion might set a precedent.
“What if Malacañang takes the cue and does the same thing to those who benefit from Palace largesse, like senators and congressmen?” Cayetano asked, recalling how, during the Arroyo administration, he and other opposition members in both chambers experienced having their perks withheld (“inipit”) for upsetting the chief executive.
Cayetano, however, pointed out that there were no indications so far that Malacañang has refused to release the Senate President’s perks (like pork barrel) just because his stand on bills certified as urgent ran counter to the administration’s position.
Enrile very publicly opposed the administration-backed sin tax bill and reproductive health (RH) measure when these were still pending in the Senate.
As this developed, Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, a known Enrile ally, called the INQUIRER to say that he would ask the four senators from the Liberal Party (LP) to come up with a position on whether Enrile indeed committed an “unconstitutional” and “unconscionable” act for converting Senate savings to MOOE, as alleged by an unidentified colleague.
This, after Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang refused to comment on the issue on behalf of Malacañang, describing it as an “internal matter.”
Estrada said he believes LP Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III could issue a statement that reflects the position of President Aquino as they belong to the same party.