DAVOS, SWITZERLAND, JANUARY 26, 2013 (INQUIRER) President Benigno Aquino III is appealing to Senators to set aside their squabbles for a few days to focus on crucial legislation such as reforms in the anti-money laundering law.

Refraining from taking any side on the brouhaha over Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s “cash gifts” to fellow senators, the President said his concern was achieving as much as possible given that there were only a few remaining sessions in Congress before the end of its term.

“Our interest is that we need these laws to be able to govern better and we don’t want to start from square one,” Aquino told visiting Philippine journalists on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting.

The Philippines is holding mid-term elections, including for members of the Senate and House of Representatives, this year.

Aquino said there were so many pending legislative measures awaiting prompt action. “The bottomline is if these are not passed by the current Congress, by next Congress you have to go back to the committee and pass through first, second and third reading — back to square one,” Aquino said.

“So actually pag-uwi ko, makikiusap ako sa ating co-equal branch na puwede ba tayong mag-concentrate na itabi muna natin ‘yung ating personal issues. Merong issues ang bansa na kailangang asikasuhin (So when I get back, I will appeal to our co-equal branch for them to concentrate, set aside personal issues. There are so many other issues we have to work on,” he said.

But Aquino said he would make such an appeal “with a very respectful tone to a co-equal branch.”

“But, again, in the last three days [of the Congress session], there are several measures that hopefully will be passed because they really are at such an advance stage of creation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President said it was a tough call for him to certify as urgent the Freedom of Information Bill given the specific conditions set by the Constitution for any proposed piece of legislation to qualify as such.

Aside from the bill seeking to strengthen the law against dirty money, Mr. Aquino cited the Human Rights Compensation Bill as another crucial legislation.

On the third amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Law, he said the Philippines would have to meet the deadline set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force.

“We have deadlines to meet and we don’t want to be a hindrance to our ability to really participate in the world financial market and the furtherance of our economic objectives,” he said.

The FATF is an inter-governmental organization initiated by the world’s richest nations under the G-7 group to develop cross-border policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Senate scandals good for people’s psyche By Ramon Tulfo 11:35 pm | Friday, January 25th, 2013 7 130 115

Senators, who are supposed to be sedate politicians, made a spectacle of themselves washing their dirty linen in public.

First, there was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile vs Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

The issue was over the “Christmas bonus” given by Enrile’s office to senators that Santiago, siblings Alan and Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV did not receive in full.

Then, it was Maid Miriam vs Sen. Ping Lacson who defended Enrile.

Ping, who is famous for his “walang prenong bunganga” (literally, a mouth with no brakes), called Miriam a “crusading crook.” Miriam shot back saying Ping pretends to know the law when he’s not a lawyer.

This riled up Ping who insinuated that Miriam had used her office funds to pay her housemaid’s salary, to shop for groceries and for husband Jun’s personal expenses.

Miriam’s blood pressure shot up and was restrained by her doctors from attending the Senate sessions.

But the biggest drama was yet to come.

On Wednesday, the Senate President had a verbal clash with Alan Cayetano on the Senate floor, also over the senators’ Christmas bonus.

It was “gutter, ugly and personal” as the Inquirer described the confrontation in its Thursday banner headline.

It was not only dirty linen that was washed in public.

Soiled panties, bras and briefs were made to dry on the clothesline for all the public to see.

The dead came to life when Enrile practically dunned Cayetano into paying a P37-million debt his late father, Sen. Rene Cayetano, supposedly owed the Senate President.

The debt was supposed to have been incurred by the elder Cayetano when he and Enrile were partners at the Ponce Enrile-Cayetano Law Office.

Enrile said he put up the law office so the elder Cayetano could feed his family.


And that’s coming from a man who millions admired for his deft handling of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Cayetano shot back, his bullet hitting a very vulnerable spot.

The young senator implied that his 89-year-old colleague extended special privileges to his chief of staff, 50-year-old lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

“We all know how you run the Senate. Or more accurately, how you and Ma’am Gigi run the Senate,” said Cayetano.


* * *

If that is how members of the supposedly more decent legislative body behave, how do you expect other politicians to conduct themselves in public and in their private affairs?

The House of Representatives, supposedly the wilder and more raucous legislative assembly, is turning out to be tamer and more behaved than its Upper House counterpart.

* * *

But you know what?

The scandals in the Senate are, in a sense, good for the people’s psyche, feeding on the public’s appetite for voyeurism.

It shows that the officials the ordinary folks look up to are as human as they are, capable of committing the sins the man on the street commits.

It’s really more fun living in the Philippines.

* * *

I feel sorry for Gigi Gonzales-Reyes, whose name has been dragged in the Enrile-Cayetano fracas.

Gigi is the daughter of my late former boss, Pat Gonzales, editor in chief of the Manila Bulletin in the 1980s.

Gonzales gave me the breaks when I was a police reporter of that paper. What I am today I owe to Pat Gonzales.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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