As their bitter and very public feud entered the 10th day, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago made separate decisions to lie low and rest.
Santiago cited doctors’ warnings that the “slightest provocation” could cause her to have a second and possibly more serious stroke after she burst a blood vessel in the right eye because of hypertension following a television appearance last Wednesday.
One of Santiago’s doctors, former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, reportedly warned her that “her political enemies might be dancing on her grave if she continues to fight them single-handedly.”
Enrile said he would pray for Santiago’s recovery and asked reporters to stop questioning him further about his conflict with the senator over the allegedly unequal distribution of Senate largesse.
“If you please, don’t ask me any more questions just to pit the senators against one another. I don’t like that. Don’t destroy the image of the Senate, please,” he said in Filipino in a phone-patch interview.
Santiago came out swinging the day the Inquirer ran a story that Enrile had excluded her and three other senators from the distribution of P1.618 million each for additional maintenance and other operational expenditures (MOOE) last December.
Santiago and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes were, however, given the first tranche of P600,000 each in additional MOOE in November as well as a P250,000 each cash gift. Santiago returned the P250,00 to Enrile’s office, saying that he had also returned her Christmas present of cookies to him.
While audit rules allow the Senate President to realign the chamber’s savings and convert these to MOOE, Santiago deplored the practice as “unconstitutional” and “unconscionable.”
Enrile said his and Santiago’s individual decisions to refrain from making statements on the MOOE were by no means a ceasefire.
“I have stopped speaking about the issue for a long time. This is not a ceasefire because I have no enemies,” he stressed.
Their statements were a letdown to Senate observers, particularly after Sen. Panfilo Lacson went on the attack on radio yesterday, saying an unnamed colleague in the chamber had listed his/her maids on the government payroll.
Meanwhile, the senator’s spouse was using Senate funds for “grocery allowance” and also government money to pay rent for a satellite office located in a building that the same senator owns, Lacson claimed.
On COA’s hands
Lacson told radio anchor Korina Sanchez he would rather that the Commission on Audit (COA) determine who the unnamed senator was based on the information he gave.
Told about Lacson’s latest disclosure, Enrile said the senator would know as Lacson is chairman of the Senate accounts committee which, according to the Senate website, is in charge of “all matters relating to the auditing and adjustment of all accounts chargeable against the funds for the expenses and activities” of the chamber.
Lacson earlier accused Santiago of being a “crusading crook” for alluding to him as Enrile’s “attack dog.” He also chided Santiago for making a fuss about her colleagues getting the additional MOOE in December but did not say anything when her office got the first tranche of the MOOE in November.
Santiago did not respond to Lacson’s accusations Thursday.
Her media officer Tom Tolibas announced that the senator “will no longer be available for media interviews starting (Thursday), to continue indefinitely until her blood pressure stabilizes.”
In an e-mailed statement, Santiago said her blood pressure as of Thursday was 184/100.
Cabral was also quoted as saying that the senator had a mild stroke about 10 years ago and that her two younger brothers had died of heart attacks.
“With that kind of medical history, Senator Santiago will be placing herself in harm’s way if she continues her battle against her fellow senators,” Cabral said.
Santiago said she would have to be absent when the Senate resumes session on Monday as she has been advised by Cabral and ophthalmologist Dr. Rodolfo Chuanico of the East Avenue Medical Center to “disengage from politics” and “be insulated from political news for the time being.”
Santiago’s statement quoted Chuanico as saying that the blood clot in her right eye “is already a warning that another abrupt rise in blood pressure might cause a stroke.”
2nd stroke imminent
“Technically, Senator Santiago suffered a mild stroke after her TV interview. Fortunately, the stroke went to her eye instead of her brain. If she continues as usual, a second stroke will be imminent,” Chuanico said.
At the Kapihan sa Senado, Sen. Francis Escudero joined Santiago’s call for a COA audit of all expenses incurred by the senators’ offices.