Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile questions a resource person during the continuation of the Senate hearing investigating the alleged illegal shipment of 420,000 sacks of Indian rice in Subic Bay Freeport Zone at the Senate in Pasay City, south of Manila, on 17 December 2012. (Voltaire Domingo/NPPA Images)

He did play Santa Claus and he is standing by his "naughty list," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said, adding that any amount he had "given" senators are not bribes.

This, as Enrile admitted that he authorized the release of P1.6-million additional funds to 18 senators before Christmas and only P250,000 to four others.
The P1.6-million release was the balance of the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) funds allowed per senator, which totaled P2.2 million as of year-end 2012, Enrile said in a statement Wednesday.

The first tranche of the MOOE, which amounted to P600,000, has earlier been released to all 23 senators in November, Enrile said.

The second and third tranches, however, have been withheld from Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes.

Enrile said he had also authorized the use of the withheld MOOE funds "to be used by the Senate for its other expenditures."

Saying that "it is time to call a spade a spade," the veteran senator also noted that he was merely exercising his "sole discretion" over MOOE funds in refusing to release amounts to the four senators.

"I confirm that I gave the instructions to my chief of staff to exclude me and the four other Senators in the succeeding releases of any further additional MOOE," Enrile said.

Not friends?

Enrile noted that except for Santiago, the senators who did not receive additional funds are members of the minority who nonetheless chair committees and thus receive hefty budgets.

As for Santiago, the Senate President said her "supposed membership in the Majority is questionable, to say the least, as she has publicly and repeatedly denounced and attacked me."

"She does not consider me a friend and I do not think she considers me as the head of the Senate and that is fine with me," Enrile added.

The rift between Enrile and Santiago took a turn for the worse in December when the Senate President returned the fierce lady senator's Christmas gift of biscuits from Iloilo.

But Santiago was not the only senator among the four with whom Enrile has had clashes.

Trillanes made headlines in September when he claimed that Enrile had been "bullying" his colleagues to approve a bill that would split Camarines Sur into two provinces.

Enrile hit back with accusations that Trillanes jeopardized talks on the West Philippine Sea dispute through "back-door negotiations" with China.

Meanwhile, Pia Cayetano, along with Santiago, has been a strong Senate advocates of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, which Enrile opposed.

'Lambing', not bribe

The Senate President also admitted that he had given checks worth P250,000 from his office to all senators, including the Cayetano siblings, Santiago and Trillanes.

"[T]hat was a result of the 'lambing' of some Senators who I will no longer name, if I had some 'pamasko' for them," Enrile said.

"I decided to give to all, not only to those who were teasing me about 'pamasko', out of my own office's savings and not from the Senate President's discretionary funds," he added.

Enrile, however, said he received a check for the same amount from Santiago's office Monday, with a note saying the check from the Senate President had been "inadvertently deposited."

"So Sen. Santiago gave back my gift, as I gave back hers. Fair enough," Enrile said.

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He also hit comments that the released funds were "bribes" amid rumors of a plot to oust him from the Senate leadership due to his stand on the RH bill, among other issues.

"Those Senators who think that I am bribing anyone with additional budgets in order to keep my post as Senate President must have a very low opinion about their own colleagues," Enrile said.

He added that he had been elected as head of the Senate twice and can thus "look at anyone straight in the eye in saying that I did not buy this position."

"Not one single centavo of the people's money is spent just to enable me to cling to this office," Enrile said further.


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