MANILA, FEBRUARY 1, 2013 (INQUIRER) It was supposed to be an hourlong sympathy rally of Senate employees for the chamber’s beleaguered chief, Juan Ponce Enrile.

Strangely, there were more placards with messages of support for the Senate President’s resigned chief of staff, Jessica “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes.

Scores of employees gathered in front of the Senate building at around lunchtime Wednesday, many of them screaming “JPE! JPE!” and “Manong Johnny!” JPE is Enrile’s initials while Johnny is how close friends call him.

“We thought of holding this for Senate President Enrile because he seems so alone at this point.

We want him to know that the employees, or most of us at least, are behind him,” said lawyer Simeon Garcia Jr., who has been employed in the Senate since 2004.

Garcia said another reason the employees gathered outside the building was because Enrile “brought honor and integrity to the Senate” as presiding officer in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Allies’ employees

Garcia is the chief of staff of Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada who, along with Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Assistant Majority Leader Gregorio Honasan, has joined Enrile in the so-called “macho bloc” in the chamber.

Observers noted that many of those who joined the gathering were employees of the four senators, although members of the staff of Senators Ralph Recto of the Liberal Party and Ramon Revilla Jr. of Lakas-CMD were also seen in the crowd.

Enrile was not around when the rally was held. One source said he attended the opening of the 5th Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption at the nearby Philippine International Convention Center. Another said he was being interviewed live on television.

[PHOTO -Photo taken in October 2012 shows President Aquino with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his chief of staff Gigi Reyes during her 50th birthday celebration at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.]

Under fire

Enrile is under fire following reports that he realigned the Senate’s savings for 2012 and converted these into a fund called additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

The move displeased four senators who were not given additional MOOE, which lawmakers could liquidate through a mere certification.

Social networking sites also went into overdrive denouncing the discriminate distribution of the fund.Many of the Senate employees at the rally also expressed fears that Enrile’s stay at the rostrum was under threat despite a majority vote of 11-3 during a plenary session last week rejecting his motion to declare vacant the position of Senate President.

One placard said, “Happy Kami sa Iyo, Manong Johnny!” while another read “No More Fighting! Save The Senate!

”However, a cursory inspection of the placards at the site showed more messages meant for Enrile’s former chief of staff, Reyes, who irrevocably resigned last week after rumors linking her romantically to the Senate President spread.

This was after Reyes called Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies “hypocrites” during a radio interview after Enrile’s motion was rejected.Be strongOne pro-Reyes placard read: “Please do not leave us, Atty. Reyes!”

Another said, “Ma’am Gigi, please be strong for us!”

A third declared, “We believe in you, Atty. Reyes!” and still one said, “No to resignation of Atty. Gigi.”

While Enrile said he would convince Reyes to stay, the Senate President’s staff confirmed earlier this week that the erstwhile chief of staff had already sent for her belongings on the sixth floor where Enrile’s office is located.

Most of the placards were made of Manila paper although some of the better designed ones were more carefully constructed using “cartolina” and other art materials. Garcia said the rally was not planned at length.

“We just talked among ourselves just before going down to the entrance. This was purely word of mouth,” he noted.

Most generous

Senate employees were quick to confirm that Enrile was one of the “most generous” Senate Presidents since Congress reopened after the fall of the Marcos regime.

Many of them said that Enrile was the only Senate President who had given hefty bonuses to employees during the holiday season.

Last December, Senate employees reportedly received bonuses up to P120,000 each. In previous years, there were stories of bonuses that reached P100,000 since Enrile became Senate President in 2008. Peachy Urquiola, a member of Honasan’s staff, said she did not recall another rally that expressed support for a troubled Senate President since the chamber moved to its current location in Pasay City in 1996.

“We are going out on a limb for Senate President Enrile. If it were another Senate President, I doubt whether this would happen,” she told Philippine Daily the Inquirer amid shouts of support from all around.


While the Commission on Audit said the Senate President was allowed by law to do this, one senator cried foul after Enrile refused to give additional MOOE worth P1.6 million to each of his four critics in the chamber.

Enrile allegedly selected only 18 senators who got the additional MOOE.In lieu of the MOOE, the four senators—Minority Leader Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes IV—got only a “cash gift” of P250,000 each. ‘One of the best’

Garcia said the rally did not mean the Senate employees would not welcome a replacement for Enrile.

“We will also love him (Enrile’s successor) if he shows love too. Regardless of the personality concerned, whoever will be the head of the Senate, definitely we will also respect and love him,” he said.

However, Garcia said the employees could not be blamed for showing sympathy for the incumbent Senate chief. ”We pity him, it appears that he has no company in the Senate. Most of us feel that if (Enrile) is not the best, he is one of the best Senate Presidents,” he said.


Chiz bares root of Senate clash, defends JPE, Gigi By Ira Pedrasa, Posted at 01/31/2013 9:15 PM | Updated as of 01/31/2013 9:15

CHIZ ESCUDERO Says Senate tussle all about the money and unequal distribution.

MANILA - Senator Francis Escudero said money - and its unequal distribution - is the root cause of the recent tussle in the Senate.

In an interview with ANC on Thursday, the reelectionist senator said that during the privilege speech of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano lambasting Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on the use of the chamber’s savings as “Christmas gifts”, nobody even said anything about it being an act of corruption.

“Dun naman nagsimula, di ba? That’s where all started. In fact, everyone was in agreement that there was nothing wrong with it. Even [Senator Antonio Trillanes IV] said there’s nothing wrong with it. Sen. Cayetano said there’s nothing wrong with it,” he said.

Before the Christmas break, Enrile said he gave P1.6 million each as additional operating expenses to all senators except himself and the Cayetano siblings, Trillanes and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. The four received only P250,000 each.

Escudero explained that the funds allocated to senators and their committees are really not equal. “There are some committees na mas maraming oversight committees kaysa sa iba. So sa chairman, automatic chairman ng oversight, so mas may budget sila para doon. So at the end of the day, it’s not really equal.”

He said that if one breaks it all down, the tiff is all about the money. “If you break it down to the essentials, ang bangayang ito tungkol sa pera na hindi talaga maganda sa panlasa.”

He said he himself did not complain when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not release his pork barrel when he was still a member of the House of Representatives or even when he entered the Senate under her term.

“Hindi naman kami nagreklamo noon, in fact, hindi ako nagtatanong kung magkano ang tinatanggap ng iba. It’s the Senate President, whoever he may be or she may be, who would know how much each one is receiving…Hindi naman talaga pantay-pantay,” he said.

Chief of staff

Escudero also defended the work of Enrile’s chief of staff, lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

Cayetano had said Reyes signs checks by the millions on behalf of Enrile and even allows her presence in the exclusive Senate lounge. Cayetano also twitted Reyes after the latter criticized the four senators in a dzMM show as “hypocrites.”

Escudero said Reyes’ work for Enrile is no different from that of his own chief of staff. “She’s the chief of staff of the Senate president. She has been with him for quite some time. Yung pagpirma ng cheke, chief of staff ko rin naman ang gumagawa nun eh…Hindi ko rin pinapakialaman ang accounting ng opisina dahil hindi ako accountant. It’s my chief of staff also who does that for me.”

He said Reyes should be forgiven for calling some senators “hypocrites.”

He said Cayetano’s only issue is being called one. “Ganon na daw ba ang Senado ngayon? Para sa akin, bakit hindi? Bakit kapwa senador lang ba ang tumatawag sa kapwa senador ng pangalan? Presidente lang ba ang pwedeng mamintas sa senador na pag tayong senador, hindi tayo pwedeng pintasan ng ordinaryong tao? Chief of staff man, staff man o tricycle driver o jeepney driver may kalayaang sabihin kung ano ang gustong sabihin sa akin.”

In this case, Reyes acted like an ordinary person – someone who has the right to speak her mind and criticize those in public office, he said.

He himself has received numerous criticisms, even cuss words, from the public.

“Ilang beses na ako halos minumura sa Twitter o pinipintasan o sinasabi kung anu-ano sa Twitter, may sinasabi ba akong: ‘Hoy ano ba trabaho mo? Sino ka ba at ano ang karapatan mong sabihin sa akin ito?’ To my mind, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we as public officers and officials should be open to that kind of criticism in a democracy…and in a country where there’s a right or freedom of speech.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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