By Jelly Musico
Tension erupted at the Senate session hall Wednesday when Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile clashed over a local bill dividing Camarines Sur and on the role of Trillanes as the country’s special emissary on Panatag Shoal dispute with China.
The ‘word war’ sparked when Trillanes delivered a privilege speech where he criticized Enrile’s leadership for allegedly favoring the proponents of the House bill splitting the four-district Camarines Sur province.
Trillanes revealed that on July 24, Enrile called a caucus at the Senate President’s office to allegedly discuss the bill dividing CamSur, being lobbied by Camarines Sur Reps. Luis Villafuerte, Arnulfo Fuentebella and Rolando Andaya.
”Without elaborating on the details of what happened in that caucus, suffice (it) to say that I was shoved aside for the nth time,” the 39-year-old Trillanes said.
He added: ”I got out of that caucus feeling trampled upon by a bully determined to get his way.
“My neophyte instincts were telling me then to just keep the peace and get out of his way.
“But then, the public servant in me just couldn’t let this thing pass.”
Trillanes said Enrile “even said that this bill should be passed immediately to relieve him of the pressure.”
Trillanes added: ”What, the great Senator Enrile could be pressured? I remember him saying otherwise, during the last impeachment proceedings.
“Is the pressuring coming from congressman Villafuerte, who we see often loitering about at the senator’s lounge, the Senate President’s Office, and even personally lobbying to senators while we are in session?
”As persistent as Congressman Villafuerte is, I doubt it if our Senate President would be pressured by him.
“Annoyed, probably, but not pressured.
“Of course, President Aquino cannot possibly be the source of the pressure since this bill isn’t even in the president’s legislative agenda.”
Trillanes manifested his decision to leave majority bloc and joined the minority “effective this day”, saying he lost trust, faith and confidence in Enrile’s leadership.
Trillanes said: “With this totally unexpected twist, everything seemed to fall into place. Now, there remain only two possibilities: that our Senate President is deeply indebted to GMA; or that he is a GMA lackey.
“Either way, I have lost trust, faith and confidence in Senator Enrile’s capability to lead the senate along the path consistent with the reform agenda that I espouse.”
Trillanes lashed back at the 89-year-old Enrile for calling him ‘coward’ when the former did not attempt in the last two sessions where Trillanes was supposed to interpolate the committee report of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on CamSur bill.
”I’ve learned that one senator called me coward. Now here I am,” Trillanes opened his privilege speech titled “Kung Gusto Ko Isasagasa Ko, Kung Ayaw Ko, Uupuan Ko.”
Visibly annoyed by Trillanes’ act, Enrile called for suspension and went down from the podium to answer Trillanes’ allegations.
“(But) just to set the record straight. This is the first time in my whole career as a senator that I was accused of railroading, pressuring people in the Senate,” Enrile said.
Enrile admitted that Villafuerte was in the July 24 caucus but explained that the congressman has been called to explain the timeline of the bill.
”Congressman Villafuerte was pleading with us to just set the hearing conducted because they are running on the very, very tight schedule. As president of the Senate it is my duty to hear everybody,” Enrile explained.
Enrile accused Trillanes of telling “falsehood” and even asked the young senator if he was angry “because you were asking for additional budget in your oversight committee and I did not allow it.”
Trillanes said that was also “falsehood”.
Enrile also reminded Trillanes that it was the Senate president who helped Trillanes to get out of the prison four years after he was detained for leading series of coup attempts against the leadership of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
”I just want to put that on record to show the character of each of us here,” Enrile said.
When Enrile started to tackle Trillanes’ role in the Panatag Shoal talks and his alleged conversation with Philippines ambassador Sonia Brady to China, Trillanes protested.
He said the conversation contained details that is confidential and would endanger national security.
However, Enrile insisted of exposing the conversation despite Trillanes opposition.
”Nothing confidential to me. I will read for the record or the notes about your conversation with her (ambassador Brady) in Beijing on Aug 12, 2012,” Enrile said.
Trillanes said the Senate President is out of order but Enrile responded: “Do not teach me parliamentary proceeding. I’m not answerable to anybody about what I say in this hall.”
Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada allowed Enrile to read, prompting Trillanes to walk out.
This time, Enrile again called Trillanes a ‘coward’ and proceeded in reading the conversation despite attempt of Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano to stop Enrile from exposing the ‘sensitive’ information which should be discussed in an executive session.
”I’m sad that this discussion is taking place and understand the sensibility but may I just put on record that to ask the chair, that if some of these things we’re discussing now affect national security..” Cayetano said.
Enrile interrupted and said: “I’ve been in charge of the national security in this country before you were born and I know what I’m talking about.”
Enrile added: ”I’m not emotional. The truth must be told. I didn’t start this, you know. If you want to fight with me, then I’ll take you on.
“I’m going to speak to the Filipino people. This is my own time now.”
Enride found an ally in Estrada who called him his ‘second father’.
”All these years, I have known him, I worked with him. I will not and I will never characterize him as bully. He never takes an institutional stand without consulting this chamber. He would often call us in a caucus on matters serious and contentious,” Estrada said.
”Only foolish can say that he (Enrile) is pushing what he wants. He always tries to balance the interest and welfare of all, even the interest of the minority,” Estrada added.
Estrada added: ”It is really regrettable that it has come to this. But I feel that it is my duty and moral obligation to say what I personally know the Senate President and to defend him against the unfair, unjust and baseless accusations of Sen. Trillanes.