Tito Sotto does an Enrile, quits Senate post, too

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SENATE PRESIDENT FOR A DAY That’s the title of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada a day after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile gave up the position. RAFFY LERMA

Saying he was weary, Sen. Vicente Sotto III resigned as Senate majority leader on Thursday, the last session day of the 15th Congress, in solidarity with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile who stepped down on Wednesday as Senate President.

“I don’t think I can top the time and effort, blood and sweat that I put in the last three years into the next three years. So let’s leave it at that. As they say, quit while you’re ahead. It’s better that way,” Sotto told reporters.

Enrile resigned on Wednesday after castigating colleagues who questioned the propriety of his yearend release of millions of pesos for maintenance and other operating expenses for selected senators’ offices and P250,000 per senator supposedly as Christmas gifts.

Sotto said he wanted to focus on being with the minority and vowed that he would be diligent in scrutinizing administration measures in the

16th Congress.

“There are many factors. First off, I’m already tired. It’s difficult,” Sotto said.

Asked if Enrile’s resignation contributed to his decision, Sotto said, “Probably, it was also a factor.”

“I’ve lost interest because after three years of giving your all, the leadership was cast in a bad light. So, somehow, we’re all affected,” Sotto said.

Asked if his decision was influenced by some senators who wanted to elect a new Senate President, he said: “No. I was just telling them that they cannot elect a new Senate President. I told them that there were only 14 of us [in the caucus] and that Greg [Sen. Gregorio Honasan] won’t vote for the person they were going to elect.”

A senator needs 13 votes to be elected Senate President.

“Senator [Franklin] Drilon agreed. He said, ‘You know me better than that,’” Sotto said.

Drilon is the presumptive next Senate President when the next Congress convenes on July 22.

‘Macho bloc’

Enrile and Sotto are members of the Senate’s so-called “macho bloc” that held the top leadership positions in the outgoing Senate but face being relegated to the minority when the 16th Congress convenes on July 22.

Their allies in the bloc took over the vacant positions—Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada as Senate President and Honasan as majority leader.

A fifth member, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, is bowing out at the end of his second consecutive six-year term.

Asked why he did not just wait for the 15th Congress to end in the next several weeks, Sotto said, “It’s better this way so I could concentrate on joining the minority.”

“We will be watching the 16th Congress on how they will handle the issues at hand, these leadership issues from before,” he said.

Sotto said the next leadership should look into the alleged hacking of the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau e-mail account on the eve of the May 13 elections when reporters received a statement, supposedly from Honasan, saying the senator was withdrawing his candidacy.

Honasan promptly denied sending the e-mail through the social media and a formal statement sent to the media.

‘You can do it’

Estrada said on Thursday he would have tried to prevent Enrile from giving up the Senate leadership had he known about it.

“I would have told him, ‘Manong, it might be useless to resign with only two session days to go. We will just fight it out until July 22,” Estrada told reporters. “Perhaps, the man just had enough. He is already 89. I don’t think he deserves that kind of treatment.”

Estrada said he was on the verge of tears when he walked Enrile down to the basement parking lot after the resignation speech.

“I can feel that he was really hurt, angry. He told me, ‘Jinggoy, now that you are acting Senate President, I know you can do it. Do your job and I will still be here to guide you,’” Estrada quoted Enrile as telling him.

“Until now, his critics have yet to stop that’s why he deemed it best that he just resign from his post so that they could stop talking. In fact, he dared all the senators to open their books and divulge to the public how they were spending their funds and those of their committees,” he said.

Estrada said he would not join the new majority. “Time and again, I have been saying that. Wherever Manong Johnny goes, I will go with him. When he goes down, I will go down with him.”

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