SOTTO STEPS DOWN AS MAJORITY LEADER / SOTTO TOPS SENATE ATTENDANCE
Sen. Vicente Sotto III
MANILA, JUNE 10, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Marvin Sy - On its last session day, the Senate yesterday let go another of its leaders the second in two days with the resignation of Sen. Vicente Sotto III as majority leader, a day after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile stepped down as Senate president.
Sotto said various reasons prompted his decision to resign, including what he felt was the need to demonstrate his solidarity with Enrile.
“This is better than my having to wait until that time (start of the 16th Congress) and appear like I’m holding on to my post,” Sotto said.
“I’m also tired. This is a difficult job. I don’t think I can tap the time and effort, blood, sweat and tears that I put in the last three years into the next three years. Like they say, quit while you’re ahead,” he said.
“As the curtain falls on the regular session of the 15th Congress and its legal life draws its last breath at the end of June this year, please consider my position as majority leader coterminous therewith,” Sotto said.
“I wish the next Senate of the 16th Congress well and that the interest of the Filipino people be duly served faithfully and well,” he added.
A member of the so-called “macho bloc” in the Senate – which includes Enrile, Gregorio Honasan and acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada – Sotto said he was appalled with criticisms hurled against Enrile’s Senate leadership.
Sotto said his resignation would pave the way for the election of a new set of officers without the 16th Congress’ having to declare all seats vacant.
“You put in all that work over the past three years and then you will hear all these allegations against the leadership. Of course you will be affected by all these things too,” Sotto said.
With his stepping down, Sotto said Honasan would take over as majority leader since the latter is the deputy.
He said there were suggestions made the other day for the senators to elect a new Senate president after Enrile announced his resignation. But he pointed out to his colleagues that there were only 17 senators present at the start of last Wednesday’s session and that only 14 were left when they went into caucus after Enrile resigned.
He explained that getting the 13 votes necessary for electing a new Senate president at that time would have been difficult – if not impossible – especially since he and Honasan had manifested that they would not participate in the voting.
It was Sen. Franklin Drilon who cited a provision in the Senate rules requiring the Senate president pro-tempore to take over the duties of the Senate president in an acting capacity in case the latter resigns.
Estrada will remain in his post until the next batch of senators elects a new Senate president when the 16th Congress opens on July 22.
Honasan, for his part, said performing the duties of majority leader or any other Senate post should not be about party affiliation or personal friendships but about serving public interest.
Estrada, meanwhile, said he is convinced Enrile was a victim of an orchestrated effort to destroy his reputation and that of his son, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile.
Estrada, an ally of Enrile, said he was surprised by the resignation of Enrile as Senate president but stressed he understood why he made such a decision.
“Even up to now his critics are not quitting, so I suppose he felt it was better for him to give up his post just to silence his critics,” he said.
A number of issues had been raised against Enrile, particularly by his colleagues in the Senate, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano. The former Senate chief had been accused of misusing the chamber’s funds to either reward or buy loyalty.
The two senators questioned the irregular distribution of the savings of the Senate to senators in the form of maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE).
Cayetano also questioned the liquidation of the funds, which he said lacked transparency since it was done by mere certification only.
In a privilege speech in which he announced his resignation, Enrile lamented that the attacks against him had tainted the reputation of the Senate and dashed his son’s bid for a Senate seat.
“I think it was a concerted effort to besmirch his reputation. Exactly who are the people behind this, we don’t know,” Estrada said.
He said it was natural for Enrile’s son Jack to be affected by the accusations raised against the former Senate president.
“I know our problem is that we’re not allied with the administration. But we are friendly with the administration. Everything that the administration wanted was delivered under the leadership of JPE – the sin tax and RH (reproductive health) bills, the budget and even the impeachment,” Estrada said.
“Somebody must have had a hand on this,” he added.
He denounced statements from some critics that Enrile’s resignation was a farce and meant to provide a graceful exit.
“Not because I am an ally of the Senate president but there were no theatrics here. This was not a farce, this was not a drama. In fact, he even urged all senators to open their books and divulge how they spent their budgets,” Estrada said.
“He had enough already. He’s already 89. I don’t think he deserves that kind of treatment. He was constantly being criticized. I guess he decided to resign just to silence all his critics,” he added.
Also yesterday, Estrada got a rebuff as acting Senate president after his order to terminate the services of Senate secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes was overturned upon Sen. Pia Cayetano’s motion.
Estrada said Reyes’ services should end because she had already reached the mandatory retirement age last Jan. 30.
In Naypyidaw in Myanmar, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said Malacanang does not have anything personal against Enrile.
“In fairness to Senator Enrile, we did manage to get some of the legislations passed during his term. But you know, that was not easy work...Yes, it was difficult for us. It was obvious that we had difficulties. But I think moving forward, the reforms we wanna put forward are not gonna be easy, and it would be better for us if we had a more comfortable majority in the Senate,” Carandang told reporters here ahead of the World Economic Forum on East Asia where President Aquino would attend.
“And with the midterm election, I think it’s clear that we will have a more comfortable majority in the Senate,” Carandang, who is part of the President’s official delegation, said.
While looking forward to working with a new Senate leadership, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday he has only respect and admiration for Enrile.
“Let me just say that I am very happy that during the term of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, we were able to work very well together during the three years that we shared the 15th Congress,” Belmonte told reporters.
“For almost three years we worked together, respecting each other’s prerogatives, respecting that there are certain things the House can determine and certain things that the Senate can do and we respected that that was the way it is under our Constitution,” he said.
The Speaker said he is also eager to work with Enrile’s possible successor, Sen. Franklin Drilon, but declined to say what other developments are likely to shape up in the chamber.
“I wouldn’t presume to be able to understand what’s going on there (Senate) or comment on it,” Belmonte said.
“My relationship with Sen. Drilon is equally good and I look forward to be able to work hard equally well with him,” he said.
Meanwhile, the younger Enrile said he fully supports his father’s decision to quit as Senate president.
He told ABS-CBN News Channel that his father’s resignation should pave the way for a full and transparent scrutiny of how senators use hundreds of millions in taxpayers’ money.
“Now that my father has stepped down, go after him, open his books, and let’s expect the same from every senator. Use of funds is not only the Senate president’s responsibility but also the entire chamber and those who receive funds,” he said.
He said senators should explain the use not only of his or her office and committee budget allocations but also his or her annual P200-million pork barrel allocation.
On Wednesday, in his resignation speech, Enrile said public criticism over how Senate funds were being used did not stop some of his colleagues from worrying how this would affect their budget allocations.
“Truth is, these committees operate and spend funds autonomously yet I was left alone” to defend the Senate’s use of its budget, he said.
“Senator Drilon as chair of finance committee knows only too well how the apportionment of chairmanships over these oversight committees can be a real headache for any Senate president. He was the first one to call my attention to it at the beginning of this Congress,” Enrile said.
“With the way the oversight committees were being presented as a form of entitlement, it was impossible for me to satisfy everyone. Perhaps in due time, Senator Drilon will finally find the solution that will adequately satisfy the members of this chamber,” he said.
This situation has prompted Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III to propose the abolition of joint Senate-House oversight committees, saying they are just duplicating the functions of standing committees and unnecessarily spending tens of millions in additional taxpayers’ money.
In his television interview, Rep. Enrile also said he has already accepted his defeat in the senatorial race.
“We went into this with open eyes, entertaining the possibility of winning and also the possibility of defeat. For a neophyte senatorial candidate with 11.6 million votes, I’ll take that any day,” he said.
He said his defeat and his father’s resignation would bring the two of them and their family closer.
“There’s a silver lining in all of this: my father and I now have a wonderful relationship. We call each other every day, asking how things are going. We also talk about certain senators,” he added.
He also said the reactions of his father’s critics to his resignation were “expected and predictable.”
“I look forward to seeing a debate in the Senate between my father and Sen. Trillanes,” he said.
With Enrile’s decision to step down as Senate president, the country may well be on its way to “virtual dictatorship,” said retired archbishop Oscar Cruz.
He said President Aquino now has control over the legislature and the judiciary headed by his appointee Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
“With such a development, who says there is no virtual dictatorship in the country,” said Cruz. With Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica
Sotto tops Senate attendance By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 10, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III had perfect attendance during the entire 15th Congress, which spanned from July 26, 2010 to June 8, 2013.
Sotto was present during the 94 session days of the first regular session from July 26, 2010 to June 8, 2011; 64 session days of the second regular session (July 25, 2011 to June 6, 2012), and 56 session days of the third regular session (July 23, 2012 to June 6, 2013).
There are a total of 214 session days in the 15th Congress.
On the other hand, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had the lowest attendance record (94 days).
Santiago usually notifies the Senate leadership about her prolonged sick leaves due to her thyroid problem and high blood pressure.
During the third regular session, Santiago was absent twice and was recorded sick 27 times.
Out of 94 session days during the first regular session, Santiago was marked sick for 55 days while on the 64 days of the second regular session, she was sick for 23 days.
Meanwhile, following Sotto’s perfect attendance was Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who was present for 213 days and was marked absent for only one day – the last session day on Thursday last week or a day after he resigned from his post as Senate president.
Closely behind them were Senators Jinggoy Estrada (211 days), Sen. Gregorio Honasan (210 days) and Sen. Franklin Drilon (209).
Records culled by The STAR from the Senate journal service also showed that Sen. Sergio Osmeńa posted 206 days in attendance record, followed by Sen. Francis Escudero (204); Sen. Bong Revilla (198) and Sen. Pia Cayetano (196).
Sen. Teofisto Guingona was present for 188 days, followed by Sen. Loren Legarda (187); Lito Lapid (184); Ralph Recto and Edgardo Angara, (183 days each); Francis Pangilinan (179); Ferdinand Marcos (169), and Joker Arroyo (147).
The Senate journal further showed that Arroyo was present during the 64 session days of the second regular session but he arrived after the roll call.
Sen. Manny Villar posted an attendance of 149 days, while Senators Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV had 141 and 135 days, respectively.
Trillanes was unable to attend 49 session days during the first regular session because he was still under detention at the time for mutiny charges.
He was able to attend session only after President Aquino granted him pardon in mid-2010.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s attendance was placed at 131 days.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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