Cha-cha ‘word war’ truce forged at JPE birthday bash

Cha-cha ‘word war’ truce forged at JPE birthday bash

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:36 AM February 15, 2024

 Juan Ponce Enrile

CENTENARIAN Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile (seated at the middle) celebrates his 100th birthday in Malacañang on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, with President Marcos and first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and other political dignitaries. Among the well-wishers are the President’s mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, former President Joseph Estrada (seated, second from left) and senators led by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri (seated, second from right). At the sidelines of the celebration, Zubiri and Speaker Martin Romualdez shook hands and agreed to put a stop to the bickering among lawmakers. —PHOTO COURTESY OF ZUBIRI

The centennial birthday celebration of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile in Malacañang on Wednesday became a venue for the leaders of Congress to meet and agree to end—for now, at least—the “word war” between senators and members of the House of Representatives on moves to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said he and Speaker Martin Romualdez spoke at the sidelines of Enrile’s birthday party, the first time that they saw each other after weeks of testy exchanges among their lieutenants over Charter change (Cha-cha).


“On the day of hearts, we had a good meeting with the Speaker. Let today be a good sign that we’ll work professionally and focus on the work at hand,” Zubiri told reporters.


“We spoke and [agreed] to stop the bickering and continue to work for the benefit of this administration and our people,” he added.

The Senate President and his colleagues had actually acceded to calls for a ceasefire from some House members, but some lawmakers from both chambers continue exchanging accusations as a result of the ongoing Senate probe on the signature campaign for a people’s initiative (PI) to amend the Constitution.

This time, Zubiri said he was hoping that both chambers would keep their word to end the ruckus on Cha-cha.

“It’s not good if we always fight each other. We committed to talk to each other and hopefully next week, (we will have) a secondary meeting because we just spoke briefly,” he said.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., Romualdez’s party mate in Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, said he also went out of his way to have the Speaker and the Senate President talk about the rift involving the lawmakers.

“I told them that we should have a ceasefire. And they both agreed,” Revilla said in a separate interview with reporters.


“This is a good start. It’s high time that we put first the interests of the people,” he said.

Senate probe continues

But Zubiri said that having an improved working relationship between the senators and House members was still up to the latter.

“It is them who were holding daily press conferences (to attack the senators),” he said.

“According to most of my colleagues in the Senate, we’re willing to let bygones be bygones, and to continue to work for our people. That’s the important thing,” he added.

Zubiri also said that he would not stop Sen. Imee Marcos from investigating the alleged irregularities in gathering signatures for PI as several House members had demanded.

Claims during the Senate probe that the signature drive was being funded by money intended to help the poor is the latest source of friction among lawmakers.

Senator Marcos had earlier alleged that the P26.7-billion Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita program (Akap) intended for “near-poor” and low-income families was being redirected to the Cha-cha signature drive and that it “magically” appeared in the 2024 national budget.

On Wednesday, Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. said it was “absurd” for senators to question its inclusion in the 2024 budget when they also approved it.

‘Akap part of budget’

In a statement, Gonzales, Pampanga third district representative, said: “Akap is part of the 2024 national budget. The Senate gave its stamp of approval on Akap when it passed the then proposed P5.768-trillion outlay for this year in plenary last Nov. 28.”

“It would be absurd now for senators to be questioning the Akap and other assistance funds included in the national budget and administered by the Department of Social and Welfare Development because they approved it,” the lawmaker stressed.

The President’s sister was a member of the Senate panel in the bicameral conference committee that discussed with its counterpart in the House the disagreeing provisions of the 2024 General Appropriations Bill.

Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co, chair of the House committee on appropriations, added that Senator Marcos was “tarnishing” the pure intention of Akap to help low-income Filipinos and of politicizing the program as he denied allegations that the program was being redirected to finance a Cha-cha signature drive.

No guidelines yet

Secretary Rex Gatchalian of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)on Wednesday also doused speculations among some senators that Akap was being used to lure beneficiaries into signing the PI.

According to Gatchalian, the implementing guidelines for Akap were still being drawn up, and so “not a single centavo” has been spent under the program.

“And we don’t plan on adding any requirement [for PI] in the Akap guidelines… that’s a no-no in our department,” he said in a dzBB interview on Wednesday.

READ: Enrile says ‘no regrets, no mistakes,’ as he turns 100

At the government television program “Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon,” DSWD Undersecretary Edu Punay said it was up to the members of the House and the Senate to explain the supposed mystery behind the sudden sprouting of the funds, as they had approved it during the preparation of the 2024 national budget.

“The issues surrounding the approval of the funding should be discussed by Congress because they possess the power of the purse, setting the budget for the government,” Punay said.

In a Viber message to the Inquirer, Punay admitted that the Akap program was not proposed for funding in the 2024 national budget that was approved by the House.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

It was, however, covered in the 2024 General Appropriations Act, following its inclusion in the bicameral conference committee, which was ratified by both chambers of Congress. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, KATHLEEN DE VILLA AND MELVIN GASCON 

TAGS: birthday, charter change, Juan Ponce Enrile, Valentine

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.