Enrile breaks silence, hits Santiago in speech
Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday broke his silence and fought back, weeks after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago claimed that he was the mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam and that he was the financier of the Zamboanga City siege.
Enrile went all out against his most vocal critic in the Senate, calling Santiago a slew of names from “the grandmama of all falsehood fabricators” to a “peeping Tom.”
In a privilege speech that he said was meant to defend his honor and those of his family and the millions who voted him into office, Enrile denied Santiago’s allegations while casting doubt on her integrity, competence and mental health.
Enrile, who is facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged misuse of hundreds of millions of pesos of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), dared Santiago to act as “a special prosecutor” in the case filed against him.
Also facing plunder charges in the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam are Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.
Enrile said “only an inane and bitterly hostile mind” could say that he was the “mastermind or brain[s] of the alleged PDAF scandal.”
“Again, all I can say is that this is an outright lie and this is just another of those baseless fabrications against me from a depraved mind,” Enrile told his colleagues.
“Perhaps, my obsessive hater should appear as a special prosecutor against me to demonstrate to her admirers her knowledge of the facts of the alleged PDAF scandal and her legal skill as a trial lawyer. I am sure she will experience something she never experienced before,” Enrile added.
Enrile said he was aware that the public was waiting for what he had to say about the pork barrel scam, “but for now, suffice it to say that there will be a time and a more appropriate forum to deal in detail with the alleged PDAF scam, and I will give my fullest cooperation to unearth the truth in that alleged scandal.”
Santiago, who hasn’t been attending Senate proceedings due to chronic fatigue, broke her sick leave on Nov. 7 to attend the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing that featured alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
At the hearing, Santiago tried to coax Napoles into squealing on influential politicians she conspired with to steal billions in taxpayer money, lest she be killed by the “murderous” among them.
In a press conference after she questioned Napoles, Santiago referred to Enrile as the mastermind of the PDAF scam.
“Whenever an occasion arises, my bitter and obsessive hater habitually flaunts her being a former judge. With a flair for self-praise, she would normally say, ‘as a former judge etc. etc.,’” Enrile said in apparent reference to Santiago, whom he did not refer to by name in his speech.
Before joining the administration of then President Corazon Aquino in the late 1980s, Santiago was a regional trial court judge in Quezon City.
“Well, I am sorry to say that this former judge does not seem to understand the basic meaning of due process. Every law student knows that due process simply means, ‘you hear first the evidence before you condemn,’” Enrile said.
“Now I know why she nearly flunked her bar examination. A parrot can memorize legal principles but it cannot apply them,” he added.
Santiago to respond
Minutes after Enrile’s privilege speech, Santiago sent word that she would answer “the personal attacks against her” on Wednesday next week.
“Santiago is ill with chronic fatigue syndrome and was unable to access her enemy’s privilege speech,” read the media advisory sent to reporters by his staff.
Santiago ordered her staff to get a copy of the Senate journal, which is expected to print in full the Enrile speech, so that she can reply to it.
The Senate went on a brief break after Enrile delivered his privilege speech. Estrada then rose to interpellate Enrile, a colleague in the Senate minority and a political ally.
Estrada asked Enrile about then Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s remarks in early 2013, tagging Santiago a “crusading crook” at the height of the controversy regarding Enrile’s yearend release of maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds and Christmas bonuses in late 2012.
Santiago and three other senators with whom Enrile, the then Senate President, does not see eye to eye on matters both professional and personal were given only P250,000 last Christmas and not P1.6 million in additional MOOE that 18 other senators got.
Enrile has insisted that the fund releases were aboveboard. Lacson, who was the chair of the Senate committee on accounts at that time, defended the release of the additional MOOE to the senators’ offices.
“She rented her own building as her own office without any public building and I was included in the complaint of Senator Lacson to the Ombudsman,” Enrile said.
“I said ‘Go ahead, include me.’ I really approved the contract. I did not know that building belongs to her,” added Enrile, who was the Senate president when Santiago rented office space in a building she owns.
Cockpit in Pasig
“Second, according to Senator Lacson, and I think that was also published in the media that she used her PDAF—if I remember correctly the figure mentioned was P200 million—to construct a cockpit in Pasig, which was disguised as a complex,” Enrile said.
“I understand they used a cockpit to hold a derby in Pasig and it’s managed by the husband,” Enrile added.
Enrile also narrated the story of a “palatial house” in Tagaytay City frequented by a senator. He said the structure stood on two lots with separate titles and separate owners—one Augusto Pineda and “a corporation.”
“By the way, when I said senator, I did not refer to any member of the Senate. That’s what I heard,” Enrile said.
Enrile denied that he was “murderous” in reference to Santiago’s remarks that Napoles could be killed if she didn’t rat on the politicians she supposedly conspired with.
“I never murdered anyone during all of my almost 90 years on this planet. I was in the war during World War II as a freedom fighter. I fired bullets against the foreign invaders of our country as they fired bullets at me. I do not know if I hit any of those I shot at,” he said.
“But for someone to say with impunity that I killed someone, whether here or anywhere else, or that I am planning anyone’s murder, is the ‘grandmama’ of all falsehood fabricators,” Enrile added.
Enrile also took exception to Santiago’s insinuation that he had with him a bodyguard armed with a rifle whenever he goes to the restroom in the Senate.
“I never realized until that blue ribbon hearing that we have a peeping Tom in this Senate. I never knew that someone was keeping an eye on me even when I go to the most private of places here in this building. It was, after all, supposed to be a private area,” Enrile said.
“I am sure, Mr. President, everyone in this Senate, including the fabricator of that falsehood, knows that what she said was a bald-faced lie,” he added.
He said that since he joined the Senate in 1987, he never allowed his security men to carry any long firearm in the Senate.
Enrile added, “Perhaps my obsessive hater is the only one, in all these years, ever so blessed to see someone carrying a long one in the Senate restroom.”
“I do not need a firearm, long or short, to defend myself in a face-to-face combat,” Enrile said, saying that he knows arnis and taekwondo.
“Besides, unlike some persons familiar to me, I do not think I suffer from any kind of schizophrenic or psychotic paranoia to be that paranoid to need someone with a firearm to visit a restroom, especially in this Senate,” Enrile said.
“Maybe what my obsessive hater mistook for a long firearm, Mr. President, was a tiny gadget that I bring with me to scratch my back when it itches and to strike down a mischievous langaw when I encounter one along the way,” he added.
Enrile said Santiago’s charge that he funded the Zamboanga City siege only showed her propensity for lying. “This senator is too much. She’s engaging in character assassination,” Enrile said.
Enrile said he was in his home province in Cagayan and didn’t know about the violence in Zamboanga City when it started, referring to the attack by hundreds of followers of Nur Misuari, former Moro National Liberation Front chair, who is protesting the proposed peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which broke away from the MNLF years ago.
Origin of animosity
Enrile said Santiago’s “deep-seated animosity” must have been caused by his opposition to her appointment as secretary of agrarian reform during the first Aquino administration and his refusal to include her in the Senate majority when he became Senate President in 2008 and in 2010.
“During the hearing of the Commission on Appointments on her confirmation as secretary of agrarian reform, testing the suitability and qualifications of the nominee then, I asked her if she was ever under the care of a psychiatrist. She admitted that she was. She said that she was treated by a psychiatrist at the Makati Medical Center,” Enrile said.
Bar exam grade
Enrile said that in the same Commission on Appointments (CA) committee deliberation, he also asked what grade she got in her bar examination.
“She replied that she got 76 percent. That meant that she obtained low grades in all her bar subjects. In fact, I remember that she got a grade of 56 percent in Ethics, the easiest bar examination subject,” Enrile said.
Enrile said that he also brought out during the CA hearings the issue of the Toyota Celica that she allegedly used and refused to return to a bank executive who supposedly was the rightful owner.
“As a consequence of my opposition, and among other concerns taken into consideration, the Committee on Agrarian Reform of the Commission on Appointments voted to reject her appointment as secretary of agrarian reform,” Enrile said.
Enrile said Santiago shunned him in 2008 before he became Senate President.
“I tried to reach her before I was voted as Senate President. She refused to answer my phone calls. She even denied my request for just five minutes to see her at her residence,” Enrile said.
“Initially, she was not part of the new majority then and, consequently, she was not assigned any committee to chair. Eventually, however, I relented and assigned to her two major committees upon the intervention of then Senator Mar Roxas,” Enrile added.
Enrile said that in 2010 when he was again elected Senate President, Sen. Manuel Villar “pleaded with me to join him and the senator with her husband in [a] dinner.”
“During the dinner, the senadora and her husband profusely made their amends to me. Because of Manny Villar, Tito Sotto and Greg Honasan, I accepted her and her husband’s insincere apologies and took her in into the new majority,” Enrile said.
Enrile said he assigned to Santiago the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of laws, “the only remaining unassigned committee at that time.”
But Enrile said Santiago wanted to retain her former committees that had oversight committees with separate and large budgets.
“Obviously, she wanted a large pile of money at her disposal. But I could not satisfy her desire because the two committees had already been assigned to two other equally capable senators,” Enrile said.