Transcript of the privilege speech of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
Mr. President, my colleagues in the Senate:
The personal conflict between me and four members of this Chamber has triggered a venomous, malevolent and sustained campaign against me. This was spurred by my decision to grant them only P600,000 each as additional MOOE last November and to hold the release of the additional MOOE granted to the other Senators, except to my own office, last month.
The persistent attacks of my adversaries, whether they be my loud and bitter critics, or those lurking in the shadows for lack of courage to come out in the open, abetted by some elements in the media, have successfully poisoned the minds of the public.
The criticisms are based on outright lies, distorted information and deliberately misleading phrases such as “cash gifts”, “Christmas bonuses”, and worst of all, “bribes”- all at the expense of taxpayers’ money.
With the way my foes have so cleverly crafted this disinformation campaign, I cannot blame the public for their sentiments and outrage over what they have been made to believe as an unconscionable and immoral use of public funds. The people have the right to demand from all of us an accounting of every single centavo of taxpayers’ money entrusted to us. No one is immune or exempt from scrutiny in the way the public funds are spent.
The press is free indeed, and a free press is a powerful tool for public accountability. Unfortunately, those who are merely masquerading as “responsible journalists” are also free to choose what they want the public to know and to believe and what facts to ignore. In fact, my enemies and critics in the press, one of them known for their tag line “balanced news, fearless views”, have enjoyed the freedom to carry on their own crusade- that is, to make sure that Enrile shall forever be known and remembered as a liar, a traitor, a thief, and a villain.
In their passionate desire to destroy me, my enemies and critics have not only dragged the reputation of my other colleagues, wildly accusing them of taking bribes and pocketing the people’s money. They have succeeded as well in placing this very institution, the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, under a dark cloud of doubt and suspicion as a house of thieves.
Senator Lacson has questioned the moral right and integrity of my most cantankerous critic. Her audacity in calling her colleagues my “cohorts” and painting them as crooks is indeed mind-boggling. When it was her turn to be challenged regarding her own integrity and to be called “a hypocrite par excellence”, it seems was enough to pose a danger to her own health and whatever remains of her equanimity and sanity.
Actually, Sen. Pia Cayetano’s office kept following up with my office and the Senate budget office about the release of her additional MOOE last December. When she and the three others found out that I had not authorized the release of any further additional MOOE to them, Senator Santiago started whining. She even cited the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
Later on, she and her group branded as immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, unconscionable, and a “bribe” what she earlier claimed she and the three others were entitled to. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Antonio Trillanes who are both in the minority, swiftly followed with their own attacks and accusations. Sen. Pia Cayetano who was following up her additional MOOE was conspicuously silent.
What would they have done if the funds were given to them? Would they have whined and complained? Or, as Senator Santiago herself suggested could be done – Would they have pocketed it instead of using it appropriately for the operation expenses of their own offices? She goes on to say that senators take a percentage of their PDAF. I wonder…is she speaking from her own experience or field of expertise?
I never bribed anyone to gain support for myself, much less with the money of the people. I did not enter into any unholy deals or plots to assume this position of leadership twice, or to cling to it like a leech hungry for its perquisites. The very thought that this position is for sale repulses me. But apparently, Senator Santiago thinks everything and everyone here has a price tag.
In all my almost 89 years, I have gone through and endured many challenges and some of the worst adversities in life, countless acts of betrayal and ingratitude, and the most vicious and virulent attacks on my character in my 46 years in politics and public service. This wave of systematic demolition is really nothing new.
I can defend myself on my own. I have fought many battles alone, at times abandoned and betrayed by many. As I said in my book, I have won some and lost some. Such is the life I have lived.
I have incurred the bitter resentment and anger of many people along my way, and they are determined to pursue their crusade and carry their seething hatred against me to their graves. I know and I understand why.
But the Senate need not and should not suffer the venom which is aimed solely at me.
A leader who serves solely by virtue of the trust of his peers and who is worthy to be called as such must be sensitive to events that not only mar his integrity and moral rectitude, but tends to destroy the integrity of the institution he leads.
A leader must not play blind and deaf when the institution he serves and its members are unfairly and unduly dragged into the mud with him, thus tending to impair the confidence of those who invested that mantle of leadership upon him.
The honor of this chamber must be spared from the rapacity and the sly, cunning and ruinous machinations of some people among us who only have their political ambition and self-interest in mind.
One Senator is so desperate that he has repeatedly and shamelessly invoked and sought Malacañang’s involvement and intervention just to get enough support to oust me. He continues to make a mockery of the Senate as an independent institution.
Of threats and coup rumors, we have had enough. I am way too old to be threatened by anyone, least of all by cowards and hypocrites.
I therefore move that the position of Senate President be declared vacant.
I ask that my motion be immediately put to a vote to pave the way for Madam Miriam Defensor Santiago, Senator Antonio Trillanes, any of the Cayetano siblings, or anyone else here who may share the same sentiments against my leadership and who may be secretly interested in this job the chance to be nominated and to seek the majority’s support to be elected as the new leader of the Senate.
Whether or not I continue to have the trust and support of my colleagues in leading this Chamber is a matter that lies purely in their hands to decide. As I have said earlier, I serve at the pleasure of the majority of my colleagues. I claim no vested right to this high position. No one has.
And whether I was in the minority or the majority all the years that I have been here, I have tried my best to serve and to perform my role with equal dedication to my duty as a Senator of the Republic.
Let us not allow ourselves to be further derailed and distracted. Replacing me does not have to take so much effort, planning or plotting. This seems to be the pre-occupation of some people in this Chamber and a constant fodder for the rumor mill, and it is such a waste of time and energy.
Let us settle this matter once and for all, and let us not tarry so that in the very few remaining days we still have left, we can get on with the business of urgent legislation. Time is of the essence and we owe it to the people to perform our duty.
With that, Mr. President, I reiterate my motion to declare the position of Senate President vacant.