Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the oldest serving lawmaker of the country, on Tuesday made his presence felt at the Senate, reminding his colleagues of their sworn-in duty to be always present whenever major bills are being tackled on the floor.
Enrile, a 91-year-old senator and considered as one of the brilliant minds in the Senate, took the podium twice, first when he asked for more explanation on a proposal by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who is still on sick leave, to grant tax exemption to a Turkish national.
The veteran lawmaker then returned to the podium, questioning the obvious absence of majority of the senators while the upper chamber was tackling the controversial Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, a substitute bill to Malacanang-back Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
I’m forced to stand up today to put into record my observation that in the course of our deliberations in the afternoon, there were very few senators on the floor to hear the proceedings, Enrile said.
I would like to state here and now we intend as part of democratic society to perform our job as members of minority, we want to restore the dichotomy between the majority and minority and I hope, we do this just a matter of duty without any intention to offend anybody but as matter of duty to country and people that we serve, he added.
Enrile reminded that for them to be able to enact laws wisely, I hope you will understand that whenever we see the need to bring senators to floor, we have to make a quorum call. I think this is a fair position and I hope the majority will not begrudge us.
Senate President Franklin Drilon thanked the former Senate leader for the reminder.
Thank you, Senator Enrile. Thank you for your reminder. It is indeed a welcome reminder and for that reason the chair directs the Secretariat to transcribe immediately what the minority leader has mentioned and to distribute it to all the members of the Senate as a reminder. Thank you very much, Senator Enrile, Drilon said.
In his only second day in the Senate after getting temporary freedom from the plunder and graft charges filed against him early last year, Enrile arrived at the plenary hall 10 minutes before the 3 p.m. session attended by only 13 senators.
The members of the Senate media took advantage of the situation to ask Enrile about his experience while in hospital arrest at the Camp Crame for more than a year.
Enrile readily answered the media queries, particularly his opinion on the ongoing Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigation on the alleged overpriced Makati City buildings involving the Binays led by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
He described the record 23 Senate inquiries as ‘self-destruct’.
An investigation like that is already losing its own steam and value because we never had that experience. It’s unusual for any country to have an investigation to last that long in aid of legislation. So it destroys itself, Enrile told the media.
Enrile said he or may not attend the future Senate hearings, including another one on Wednesday, on the expanded investigation that now includes Binay’s alleged anomalous transactions in the Boy
Scout of the Philippines and the 350-hectare farms he allegedly acquired in Batangas.
We never had that precedent. And besides, it started if I recall, reading from the papers, from a resolution supposedly in aid of legislation to determine overpricing of a building in Makati. It expanded to far away from the resolution. Can you justify that, he said.
About his political plans, Enrile said he would rather focus on his job as legislator while enjoying a temporary freedom he got after the Supreme Court (SC) granted his petition to post bail.
I do not play politics in the performance of my job. This time I devote my few and short time in the service of country, Enrie, whose last term as senator will end in June next year, said.
While in detention, Enrile said he spent time studying, reading books a lot and reflecting and writing the life he spent for the last 91 years.
Enrile faces Php172-million plunder charges in relation to the so-called Php10-billion pork barrel scam. (PNA)RMA/jfm