Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile did not quit, so she did.
“I believe what the public really hungers for is the truth about the officials they elected and how their money is spent or wasted. The people now believe that the Senate stinks,” Enrile’s chief of staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes said in a statement.
“It is sad but I so agree. It is time to look for where the stink is actually coming from,” she added.
While her ill-considered comments about Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano were the cause of her irrevocable resignation, Reyes said she also had “an honest difference of opinion” with her boss on how best to deal with the controversy over the disposition of Senate funds.
According to Reyes, Enrile could very well have explained how the Senate spends its P600 million in funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and how he had to maintain a balancing act to accommodate all the senators’ requests for extra office space and additional travel funds.
“But the Senate President did not want to embarrass his colleagues,” she said.
Reyes said she had drafted a speech for the Senate President—which in the event was left undelivered—in which Enrile would have declared that he was resigning irrevocably.
“The draft speech I prepared also contained a statement towards the end that he was resigning irrevocably as Senate President, something that he had been contemplating since Monday when his motion to declare the position of Senate President vacant was defeated,” she said.
The speech would have been Enrile’s response to Cayetano’s privilege speech last Wednesday in which the Senate President was questioned on how he was using or misusing the Senate’s funds. In his speech, Cayetano also insinuated that Reyes had an unseemly strong influence over the chamber as Enrile’s chief of staff.
But Enrile did not agree to deliver the speech, “understandably concerned that with the prevailing howl over the media, the Senate and his colleagues may be unduly placed in a bad light, in particular with respect to the budgets of the oversight committees that are locally funded by the Senate,” Reyes said.
Supported by documents
Reyes explained that the P600 million in Senate funds that Cayetano would like to subject to an independent audit actually represents the MOOE of the entire Senate Secretariat and that, contrary to the allegations, all expenses charged to that account are covered by supporting documents and vouchers available for everyone in the Senate to see.
“In fact, these expenses pass through several departments before reaching the secretary of the Senate who then submits them to the OSP for approval/signature. Senator Cayetano claimed that only the Office of the Senate President has access to these vouchers. That is not true,” she said.
According to Reyes, she tried to convince the Senate President to resign irrevocably, mainly over her disappointment that very few senators in the majority stood up with him to justify the regularity of the P1.6 million in additional MOOE he released to all but four senators last December.
“I had expected the other senators not so much to defend their leader, but to clarify, explain and defend their own honor and the honor of the Senate,” she said.
“The systematic disinformation and the malevolent attacks raged on, fueled by Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ tireless pronouncements that a change in leadership was in the offing. I did not know what to make of the conspicuous silence of the other members of the majority. I grant that some of them just did not want to be embroiled in the fray,” she said.
Even the Senate secretary general, Emma Reyes, did not want to be perceived as defending the Senate President, she said.
Reyes said she thought there was no point for Enrile “to continue to stick his neck out defending himself and his colleagues while the others except for a very few would rather just watch.”
“We had not been deluded by the so-called “vote of confidence” he gained when his motion was voted down, with 16 senators in attendance. It was not a moro-moro [a farce],” she said.
“He was ready to step down, and so he manifested that he would reiterate his motion when the others, especially all his detractors were present,” she said.
Apology to Cayetano
In her statement, Reyes issued a public apology to Cayetano for calling him a hypocrite in a dzMM radio interview.
In her remarks in the interview, Reyes noted that Cayetano and the three other senators—Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Pia Cayetano and Trillanes—who were raising a stink over the measly P250,000 they received from Enrile, had received similar dole-outs in previous years without incident.
“I profusely apologize to the honorable senator and minority floor leader, Alan Peter Cayetano, for my disrespectful and offensive statements and overbearing tenor as I was interviewed on dzMM Teleradyo last Monday, Jan. 21, 2013,” Reyes said.
She said she committed an act of disrespect in referring to Cayetano as ‘Alan’ and “not addressing him properly as an elected senator of the Republic.”
“I committed a serious ethical breach in making the remark: ‘They are hypocrites.’ I am sorry that I was driven by my emotional state, as the Senate President and I viewed and listened while [hosts] Ms Karen Davila and Mr. Vic Lima were obviously aghast and scandalized at Senator Cayetano’s allegations, apparently believing them to be the whole truth about the disposition of the Senate’s budget,” she said.
Reyes also reiterated her irrevocable resignation as Enrile’s chief of staff, which she said did not need the Senate President’s acceptance.