MANILA, Philippines — Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago now wants Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to “answer for the crime of plunder” and explain his role in the disappearance of private individuals during martial law as a follow up challenge to their spat over the selective distribution of additional cash allotments for “maintenance” to a select group of senators.
Santiago was the first to admit receiving a P250,000 “personal cash gift” that Enrile gave to all 23 senators during the recent holidays.
However, she returned the amount via a personal check and said this was nothing compared to the P1.6 million additional “maintenance and other operating expenditures” (MOOE) that only 18 colleagues received last month.
Santiago was being asked by a radio station announcer whether she thought other senators would also return the cash gift they received from the Senate President.
Santiago replied she would not know. While recalling how her office received the cash gift, she volunteered she had been out of Enrile’s favor since the time of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Santiago said this was because she refused to be controlled by Enrile, as he apparently expected, as he was a wedding sponsor during her wedding to Narciso Jr.
“Noon pa galit na si Enrile sa akin, eh. Noon pa ‘yun. Noon pang panahon ni Marcos, noon pang panahon ni (President) Cory Aquino. Nagalit sa akin ‘yan dahil gusto niya bilang ninong ko sa kasal, kontrolado niya ako,” she explained.
Santiago would not reveal the details of how their quarrel began then.
The senator went on however, accusing the Senate President of basking in power during the martial law period.
Santiago used the term “namunini,” which she said meant that Enrile “profited, he enjoyed himself, he was master of the universe during martial law.”
She added however, that Enrile must now answer for his role in that dark side of Philippine history.
“Namunini ‘yan nung martial law. Right hand man (ni Marcos) iyan, martial law administrator ni Marcos,” the senator said.
Santiago added Enrile “should now answer for the crime of plunder. Bakit siya ganyan kayaman? (Why is he that rich?) He should answer for the crime of causing the (disappearance of private individuals), tinatawag sa Spanish na desaparecidos (who are called desaparecidos in Spanish). Martial law administrator siya, defense minister siya. (Eh), ‘di dapat managot siya doon (He was the martial law administrator, he was the defense minister. He should answer for his acts.”
The senator went on, accusing Enrile of harboring a personal agenda when he played a role in Marcos’ exit from Malacañang in February 1986.
“Gusto niya tanggalin si Marcos dahil buong pag-asa niya na siya na ang papalit. Eh, gusto pala ng publiko si Cory Aquino (He wanted to remove Marcos, thinking he would take power. But as it turned out, the public wanted Cory Aquino to lead),” she recalled.
Santiago then alleged that Enrile had a direct hand in the coup attempts against Mrs. Aquino during her presidency. “Purmero, nakikipag-kaibigan. Mamaya nagbibigay ng pera pala para sa mga coup d’ etat laban kay Cory kaya pinatanggal siya sa gobyerno (At first, he was offering friendship. Later, he was distributing money for the coup d’ etat against Cory and that was why he was removed from government),” Santiago said.
“Pagtapos ngayon, namunini pa rin. Nandiyan pa rin sya (in power). (And now, he’s still profiting. He’s still in power). He will be 89 years old in February,” she noted in Filipino.
At one point, Santiago criticized Enrile for believing in surveys only if these served his ends.
For example, Santiago said a survey taken after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona indicated that she got an approval rating of 68 percent compared to Enrile’s 18 percent. She said the Senate President dismissed the results.
“He said, ‘wala ‘yan, binili ‘yan, sinungaling ‘yan. Eh, bakit nung nag-number four ang anak niya (Cagayan Rep. Jackie Enrile in a senatorial survey), bilib na bilib siya sa survey. Nang No. 2 lang si (Enrile), hindi na siya bilib sa survey (He said ‘that’s nothing, that survey was bought, that’s a lie.’ But why did he believe the survey when it showed that his son (Cagayan Rep. Jackie Enrile) ranked no. 4 in the senatorial survey?). But when Enrile himself was just no. 2, he no longer believed in the survey),” she asked.
In another survey done by a “columnist” for a “TV station” she refused to identify, Santiago said respondents were asked to choose who they believed more in the issue over the realignment of Senate savings.
Santiago said “99 percent” of the respondents chose her while the rest favored Enrile.
“Sinungaling din yun? Basta laban sa kanya, sinungaling ang survey? ‘Yun ang sinasabi nya eh (Is that a lie? If it goes against him, the survey is a lie? That’s what he’s saying,” Santiago said.,” she remarked and then shifted to the controversy over whether Enrile’s ambush in 1971 was staged.
“Tumitigil-tigil na nga ‘yang matanda na ‘yan! Una, sabi n’ya na nag-imbento lang pala ng ambush laban sa kanya bilang defense secretary nung martial law para lang magkaroon ng base si President Marcos para mag-declare ng martial law (That old man should just stop! At first, he said the ambush on him when he was still defense secretary of martial law was staged to give Marcos justification to declare martial law,” Santiago fumed.
“Nung panahon ni Marcos, ina- ambush sya. Nung panahon ni Cory sabi nya peke na ambush ‘yan. Ngayong panahon na ito, ng kanyang autobiography kuno, sinabi naman niya na tunay daw yung ambush (During the time of Marcos, he was saying he was ambushed. During the time of Cory, he said his ambush was faked. Now, in his supposed autobiography, he said his ambush was real),” the senator added.
Santiago referred to an entry in Enrile’s memoir launched September where he insisted that his ambush inside Wack Wack Subdivision in Mandaluyong was not staged.
Critics said it was contrary to his story given right after the 1986 Edsa uprising that the ambush was planned and that Marcos used it to justify the declaration of martial law.
Santiago reminded Enrile, a fellow lawyer, that the Supreme Court considered a retraction “more credible than the original testimony” because it accommodated the possibility that the witness could have been tortured or confused when he gave his first story.
However, she also noted that the tribunal would regard “a person who makes a retraction of the reaction (as) absolutely incredible…Anong klaseng tao yan?”
The same station eventually got in touch with Enrile who indicated before Santiago’s interview that he would refuse questions about her.
“Hindi ko na siguro sasagutin ang mga sinabi niya. Pabayaan mo na lang ang publiko mag-isip kung sino ang tama (I will no longer answer questions about her. Let the public judge what is right or wrong),” the Senate President said.
“Pati ba naman, pati mga ambush-ambush ko daw, pati ako nag-martial law daw. Siya din nakinabang noong martial law dahil tauhan siya ni Kokoy Romualdez (brother of former First Lady Imelda Marcos),” Enrile shot back. [She’s even digging in Martial law, my role in martial law. But she was also a beneficiary of martial law because she worked Kokoy Romualdez (brother of former first lady Imelda Marcos).]
“Ayaw ko nang balikan ‘yun, eh. Tungkol sa pag-ninong ko sa kanya, lahat ‘yun walang kaugnayan ‘yun sa usapin (I don’t want to revisit those events. With regards to my standing as a sponsor in her wedding, that has nothing with the issues here),” he added.
When pressed to talk about his supposed plunder, Enrile said: “Sinabi ako mayaman? Hindi ko na ipapaliwanag sa kanya saan galing ang aking kaunting naipon. Ako nag-practice (ng law), ewan kung nag-practice siya (She said I’m wealthy? I no longer need to explain to her where my money came from. I practiced law and I don’t know if she practiced law.”
“Marami naman akong hinawakan na mga kaso. Ewan ko kung siya ay may hinawakan na mga kaso nang siya ay matapos ng abogasiya. Sa aking tingin, hindi naman nag-practice yan at palaging nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno. Kaya hindi ko na sasagutin ‘yon (I handled many cases. I don’t know if she handled cases after graduating from law. I think she never practiced law and just worked for the government,” he added.
“Ilang beses na akong inimbestiga ng ilang administrasyon. Nung panahon ni Presidente Cory, inimbestiga ako. Ayan, buhay pa si executive secretary noon (Sen. Joker Arroyo). The chairman of the committee that investigated me was Bienvenido Tan of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Wala namang silang nakitang ninakaw ko sa gobyerno (I have been investigated by previous administrations. I was investigated during Cory Aquino’s time. The executive secretary during that time is still alive today),” Enrile explained.
“Yung (coconut) levy na pinaparatang sa akin, hindi naman nawaldas. Noon ang nakolekta naming, P9.6 billion. Ginastos ng gobyerno ang P7.1 billion. May naiwan na P2.5 billion, in-invest namin ni Danding, ay ngayon pinag-uusapan more than P130 billion na ‘yun, na pinag-aawayan na ngayon (The coconut levy that is being pinned on me, I did not plunder it. We collected P9.6B. The government spent P7.1 billion. The remaining P2.5 billion was invested by me and Danding [Eduardo Danding Cojuangco] and that money has grown to P130 billion that many people are fighting over)” he added.
“Hindi ko na sinasabi ito upang ako’y maging guwapo sa tao kundi ‘yan po ang tunay na katotohanan. Ayaw ko nang sagutin, eh. Dahil pabalik-balik, palihis-lihis ang mga argumento. Dinadala sa ibang issue, ayoko nang palawakin pa ito (I’m not saying these things to look good in the eyes of the public but to say the truth. I did not want to answer these questions. They keep coming back and they skirt the real arguments. They’re trying to bring the issue somewhere and I don’t want foment it further),” Enrile said.
The Senate President said Santiago “as a brilliant lawyer seeking a new career in the International Criminal Court” should instead charge him before the global juridical body or the Office of the Ombudsman if she believed he was guilty.
Santiago however, already said in an earlier interview she would not spearhead any move to have Enrile investigated so as not to “sink to the level of the vulgar.”
Also on Sunday, Enrile and Sen. Panfilo Lacson took turns challenging Santiago to be the first to reveal the details of her income and perks as senator, as well as the expenses incurred by her office.
This after Santiago dared her colleagues to post these details on the Internet. Santiago also asked the Commission on Audit (COA) for a similar disclosure in cyberspace based on their examination of how each senator used the budget given to his office.
Enrile maintained that the COA itself had already indicated that there was nothing irregular with the Senate President’s move to realign savings of the Senate, including those from the office vacated by President Aquino since June 2010, and converting these to additional MOOE.
Lacson, meanwhile, wondered why Santiago was questioning the conversion to MOOE in December last year.
Santiago was quoted saying that since senators are wrapping up their business for the year, why was there a need to realign funds for their offices.
“Sen. Miriam probably knows the nature of this kind of additional appropriation. If she participated in the Senate budget debates, she would realize that all these years, the life span of a (specific year’s) budget is two years (before it reverts to the national treasury),” Lacson explained in Filipino.
Enrile said Santiago should lead the way for the rest of the senators, beginning with a disclosure of how her budget as chair of the Senate constitutional amendments committee was spent.
Santiago earlier said a senator chairing a committee got P30,000 to P60,000 monthly, aside from other perks.
“Kung nagnakaw kaming lahat, ipakita muna (ni Santiago) ang estado ng kanyang committee, ang kanyang pondo at kung makitang talagang malinis siya, ‘di kaming lahat susunod (If all of us stole, she should first show the state of her own committee, how her funds were used, and if it is shown that she’s clean, we’ll follow her,” the Senate President said.
Enrile said the COA has been examining funds spent by each senator’s office on a yearly basis.
Lacson admitted being hurt by Santiago’s sweeping statements about the P1.6 million additional MOOE received by the 18 senators.
“This is additional MOOE but there has been a lot of spin in the story so people now believe this is just something we pocket on a whim,” Lacson said in Filipino.
In his case, Lacson said he got the three tranches of additional MOOE worth about P2.2 million but these went straight to his office’s account.
Lacson said he was still reconciling his office records and has not verified whether he got the P250,000 cash gift, the same that Santiago claimed she returned to the Office of the Senate President.
Lacson dismissed Santiago’s claim that the P250,000 cash gift and the P1.6 million that each senator got from realigned funds was pork barrel.
Lacson, chair of the Senate accounts committee, noted that a senator’s pork barrel, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), would be reflected in the General Appropriations Act that the President signed into law every year.
Still, Lacson said he was aware of legislators who really pocketed their MOOE once these were “cleared” in the records.
“Maipagtatanong naman sa Senate staff kung sinong senador ang nag-aabuso sa pondo, whether additional or regular MOOE. Depende sa konsensya ng senator if gagamitin sa tama at idaan sa auditing procedures under COA rules (People can ask the Senate staff to identify the senator who has been abusing the use of funds, whether additional or regular MOOE. It’s really up to the senator’s conscience how he or she will use the funds and whether he will go through auditing procedures under COA rules),” he pointed out.
Lacson also asked Santiago to be more careful when giving statements about the additional MOOE in the future.