ENRILE RESIGNATION SPEECH | 'I reserve the right to vindicate my sullied name'
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(The following is the full text of the Speech delivered by Juan Ponce Enrile as he irrevocably resigned as Senate President, June 5, 2013)
My colleagues, the officers and employees of the Philippine Senate, my countrymen:
The COMELEC has proclaimed the 12 winners of the senatorial race in the elections held last May 13. From the slate called “Team PNoy”, nine have been proclaimed; and of the nine candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance or “UNA”, three have made it and survived the administration’s formidable political machinery.
Even as serious questions and issues continue to hound the integrity of the conduct and results of the last automated electoral exercise, it may be gainsaid that the game is over as far as the senatorial contest is concerned.
We must all move forward because the country needs us to move forward.
I am glad that Senator Koko Pimentel has placed all these festering questions and doubts on the last automated elections on top of his agenda for electoral reform. I believe that we CAN, in fact, we MUST resolve these issues. As a democracy, we cannot afford to lose the people’s faith in our electoral system.
My own son, the candidate Jack Enrile, has taken and accepted this setback in his political career with all good wisdom, humility and most of all, an undefeated spirit.
A first senatorial run is a tough hurdle in itself. But Jack knew from the beginning that the fight would be many times more difficult for him- this, by the fact alone that he is the son of Juan Ponce Enrile.
The common analysis of political observers was that my son’s candidacy suffered from the fall-out of the bitter criticisms and accusations hurled against me by some people in this Chamber who I had displeased, just as we were entering the political campaign season.
The enmity that marked the ending of our session days last January and early February was carried well into the campaign. This was helped in no small measure by the virulent personal attacks against me by a non-candidate Senator who fashions herself as my nemesis and who evidently delights in doing the job. There were, of course, many others who had their own reasons for ensuring that I was ruined, and that, consequently, my son’s candidacy was ruined.
Yet Jack forged on, plodded and toiled on his own. He braved the storm and took on all the brickbats and accusations, both old and new. He squarely faced the issues against him and submitted himself to the judgment of the electorate without uttering a word against his detractors.
As a father, I endured in silence the pain of seeing my son suffer because of me. He carried on his shoulders the weight of all the mud thrown against me. As I stayed and watched quietly by the side lines, my heart bled for him.
In spite of all these, I heard Jack say that I am his hero and that he was my hero. I was deeply touched by that, and I could not ask for anything more from my son. He has truly made me even more proud to be his Dad.
In the aftermath of the elections, the air is thick with talk about the changes that would occur as a consequence of the new composition of the Senate in the 16th Congress.
(Transcript of speech continues after video)
Even as millions of votes were still unaccounted for, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad already foresaw the outcome. He was quoted as saying that the first order of the day when Congress opens in July is to replace me as Senate President and to re-elect Speaker Belmonte as Speaker of the House.
That statement did not surprise me at all. I am sure that those who are eager to replace me have been assembling and gathering the numbers, if they haven’t already “sealed the deal”, so to speak. As a politician, that is all par for the course for me.
Old age may have physically impaired my vision. But let me assure all of you: I can still see and read clearly the handwriting on the wall. I need not be told by anyone when it is time for me to go.
Based on the so-called “official results”, one Senator who had openly accused me of anomalies and venalities in running the Senate, and another young Senator who said that Juan Ponce Enrile “has not done anything good for this country”, have both earned a fresh mandate to serve in this Chamber. I respect that mandate as all of us should.
With the cloud of doubt and suspicion that my adversaries have successfully foisted upon my person, my honor and my leadership, it is not far-fetched for them to make the people believe that I will expend the resources of the Senate, the people’s money no less, and use the powers of the Senate Presidency just to hold on to this position.
I say “successfully” because no matter how baseless and malicious those accusations are or were, the issues hurled at me and their implications not only on my own, but on the Senate’s integrity, were never resolved with clarity. These were quickly overtaken by the campaign fever.
The TRUTH OR FALSITY of these accusations were lost and muddled in the wild frenzy of election rhetoric and propaganda.
Indeed, so successful they were, such that the much-publicized surveys portrayed me as having suffered the biggest decline in terms of the public’s trust as head of this institution and as the 3rd highest official of the land.
I took all of these as part of the burden of leadership.
As your leader, I never shirked from the responsibility to defend my actions and decisions, the honor of the Senate and that of my colleagues.
I carried the whole brunt of the public’s ire over the infamous “one-page certification”- the prevailing system of liquidation of our operating budgets as Senators-which was neither my creation nor invention.
I carried the brunt of four of my colleague’s anger and displeasure over not receiving what they felt they were entitled to as their share of the savings of the Senate.
No one bothered nor cared that I, too, did not receive the same amount that I had approved for the rest.
I suffered the anger of the public as the media branded all that I had authorized for release to the Senators’ offices last December as my personal “CASH GIFTS” no matter how hard I tried to explain the nature of these disbursements from the Senate’s coffers and my own office’s savings.
Senator Lacson, as Chairman of the Committee on Accounts, and I took the position that if we were to be sensitive to the public pulse, and with the agreement of both houses of Congress, we should revert to the old system of liquidating and accounting for each centavo of public money entrusted to us.
Save for a few, my colleagues chose to keep their distance and silence as I was publicly pilloried and crucified.
But in the privacy of our caucuses, in hushed tones or whispers, many of them expressed grave concern about the repercussions of these developments on the operations of their own offices and their own budgetary allocations.
The controversy did not end with the MOOE or the budget of the Office of the Senate President.
The public’s attention turned to the huge budget allocated for the numerous congressional oversight committees which were also not my own creation or invention. They were created either by law or by resolution. The budgets for these committees are charged against the Senate’s budget, but the truth is that these committees operate and spend funds autonomously.
Yet, I was left all alone to explain as the Minority Floor Leader questioned the increasing budget of the Senate from the time I assumed the Senate Presidency in November 2008.
Senator Drilon, as Chairman of the Finance Committee, knows only too well how the apportionment of the chairmanships over these oversight committees can be a real headache for any Senate President. He was the first one to call my attention to it at the beginning of this Congress.
Next was Senator Pia Cayetano who offered to review and study the rationalization of these preponderant oversight committees. I welcomed her offer to help but I did not get any recommendation from her.
I placed Senators Drilon and Lacson in charge of the review because of all the numerous requests for budget augmentation that I was receiving. With the way the Senators now view the chairmanships over these oversight committees as a form of entitlement, it was impossible for me to satisfy everyone.
Perhaps, in due time, Senator Drilon will finally find a solution that will adequately satisfy the members of this Chamber. More importantly, I hope that such a solution will correct a rather unwieldy situation that has earned the criticism and disgust of the people.
As I said when I made a motion to declare this position vacant a few months ago, I did not wish to endanger the trust that the public has reposed upon the Senate as an institution just because of the viciousness and self-righteousness of some people. They were only against me, after all. But in their desire to undermine me, they invariably brought the other members of the Senate and the image of the Senate itself to disrepute.
After all that howl and rage, I now ask: Must all these issues of propriety, transparency and accountability be forgotten?
Have all these issues suddenly become “irrelevant”?
Can we just “move on” as they say, and just bury these issues in the dustbin of the Philippine Senate’s history?
My answer is NO.
NO. The Senate neither begins nor ends with Juan Ponce Enrile. This Chamber has its own honor to uphold, and its institutional integrity in the end means more to the people than all of us combined.
My entire record as a public servant, my performance as a Senator of the Republic, and my conduct as Senate President is all up for the nation to judge, whether fairly or unfairly.
But now that the election noise has quieted down, I lay claim to nothing more than the right to vindicate my sullied name.
I will leave each of my colleagues to explain directly to the people who elected them their respective positions on these issues and to account for their own budgets, as I have always been ready to account for my own. I can no longer speak for them.
I refuse to be anyone’s scapegoat and everyone’s whipping boy.
I refuse to let any Senator drag my name down the gutter with her.
I refuse to stand idly by when no less than the son of my former partner, the late Senator Renato L. Cayetano, would dare accuse me of being a thief or a scoundrel.
I refuse to lend my hard-earned name as a convenient refuge to those who cannot face the public and defend their own honor.
I refuse to allow any body, whether in or outside the halls of this Chamber, to just freely trample upon the name that my late father, Alfonso Ponce Enrile, had so kindly allowed me to carry with pride.
I do not need nor intend to use the powers, perquisites and trappings of the Senate Presidency just to cling to it or to secure this position for myself when the 16th Congress opens in July.
Neither do I intend to use this position to influence or impede in any way the conduct by the COA of a no-holds barred audit of the Senate’s and the Senators’ budgets and expenditures.
Let us all be men and women worthy of being called “Honorable Senators.” And let the chips fall where they may.
AND SO, AS A MATTER OF PERSONAL HONOR AND DIGNITY, I HEREBY IRREVOCABLY RESIGN AS SENATE PRESIDENT.
With the constantly shifting political tides, to muster the support of the majority of your colleagues, and to maintain that support long enough to achieve something for the people who elected us into office, is quite a feat in itself.
Thus, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my colleagues who, at the most crucial hour, managed to rise above selfish interest and ambition to help me steer the Senate through rough waters in the last four and a half years that I served as Senate President.
Thank you, my colleagues, for your forbearance.
May God bless you all and may God bless the Senate!
Above all, may God bless our country and our people!