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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE: 3:47PM) Budget Secretary and Liberal Party stalwart Florencio Abad has denied authorizing a plan to unseat Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as the chamber's President, saying the claim was "preposterous."
Abad distanced the Palace and the administration party from efforts of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to unseat Enrile, who indicated that the former rebel soldier-turned-lawmaker will soon lose his committee chairmanships since he has quit the majority bloc.
"It is absolutely not true," Abad said on Friday. "In the first place, why would we do that to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who has proven to be a reliable ally of the President? That is simply preposterous."
On Friday, meanwhile, Enrile said in a radio interview that Trullanes may be stripped of his committee chairmanships, since he has abandoned the majority.
On Thursday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the administration prefers Enrile to remain as Senate President.
"We have no reason to question the capability of Senate President Enrile... We have good relations with the Senate and the Senate President," Lacierda said.
Trillanes admitted masterminding the ouster plot against Enrile whom he accused of being a bully and a lackey of Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.
Senators, however, responded to Trillanes' call by taking the cudgels for Enrile.
Senator Ralph Recto of the Liberal Party said Enrile has done a "very good job leading the Senate."
Nacionalista Party's Senator Bongbong Marcos said the coup plot "makes no sense."
Trillanes is a member of the Nacionalista Party.
Trillanes may lose committees
After his televised showdown with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday, Senator Trillanes might wake up before the resumption of the Senate session with no committee to handle.
In a radio interview, Enrile said that Trillanes might be stripped off his chairmanship and membership in various committees, including the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) because it belongs to the majority.
“We can actually remove him from the SET because that position in SET is allotted to our group because for every four senators, we are entitled to one membership in the SET,” Enrile explained.
In a privilege speech Wednesday, Trillanes renounced his membership with the majority group that installed Enrile as Senate president, and joined the group of Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.
Enrile explained that Trillanes enjoyed all the benefits as member of the majority, including chairmanships of major committee and a seat in the powerful SET. “You see, he enjoys all the benefits of being in the majority but he is now in the minority. Kung ako siya, kung talagang magiging minority siya, dapat (bitawan nya ang committee), gawin nya iyon,” Enrile said.
Enrile recalled that in 1987 when he was the minority leader, he had no committee chairmanship, and was only a member in an ex-officio capacity. “If you want to be a genuine minority member, and you’re not just being petulant or have a personal grudge, then do that [give up committee posts],” he said. “We’re talking of principle here, not pretending,” he added.
At present, Trillanes chairs the Senate committee on civil service and government reorganization, amateur sports competitiveness, Select Oversight Committee on Government Procurement, and a seat in SET.
Enrile said he will retain Trillanes as chairman of the Senate committee on civil service and government reorganization, but will consider his chairmanship on oversight committee. “He can handle that. We will give it to him. We don’t want to appear petty but that oversight panel he holds, perhaps we will consider that,” Enrile concluded.