Press Release
January 27, 2010

Transcript of interview of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
with ANC's Twink Macaraeg

Q: You made some revelations about an alleged bribery attempts from Senator Manny Villar, will that be something you think that will be taken up today?

SP: Well, I made that statement because it is a part of my narration of events. That, in my opinion, were in fact pressures or attempt to influence me to tone down the evidence that were assembled and presented against Sen. Manny Villar. So today, we have to continue with the discussion of the case. The status is that, the Villar group had finished the sponsorship of the resolution. I have finished the sponsorship of the report of the Committee of the Whole. And so we are in the period of interpellation. So I think Senator Madrigal plans to interpellate that of the members of the Villar group. So we will see what will happen. But my understanding with the Majority Floor Leader is that before we continue to tackle the Villar matter, we will have to dispose other legislative measures that are urgently needed. And we will for instance dispose a bicameral conference committee report on the removal of VAT on the 20% privilege granted to senior citizens. And also some other measures that had already been finished. So that we can proceed with legislation.

Q: Is it possible that taking up those measures might take up the entire session and therefore, the debates or the interpellation about the committee report will again be postponed?

SP: No, I don't think so. We will have to budget our time because the case of Senator Villar is important but there are also important measures that are needed for legislation and we cannot do away with that.

Q: Well, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago was not slated to give a privilege speech yesterday. But somehow she managed to derail the intended agenda of the committee report. Is it possible that some similar stunt might be pulled again today? SP: I don't think that there will be any further speeches that will be made today on the issue of the Villar ethics case. It will be now the matter of questioning the proponents of the resolution on the side of the Villar group. I expect that I will also be interpellated by the members of the Senate in connection with the report that I have prepared based on the evidence that I have gathered during the 12-day hearing of the Committee of the Whole.

Q: What is the order of events, sir? Will you be the first one to take the interpellation or will it be Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano?

SP: Who will be interpellated first will be the side of the Villar group.

Q: And will your interpellation immediately follow that?

SP: I don't know how long the interpellation of Senator Madrigal will be.

Q: The point of Senator Santiago's speech yesterday was to dispute your interpretation of the number votes needed to pass this censure. Is that going to be a point of contention still today?

SP: I don't think so. I don't think that will be a point of contention. That is a legal issue that can be discussed, studied by lawyers and discussed by us. I've read the precedents under the American law. And indeed, if they expelled a member or suspended a member, they voted ¾. But if they simply re-censure a member of the legislative bodies, they only apply a majority. Now the question then is, what majority of the membership or majority of the whole do I suppose? That will be a majority of the whole. And that's my opinion. But that's only my opinion. There is no question that censure is a punishment or a sanction that is authorized under our 1987 Constitution as well as the 1935 Constitution and even the 1973 Constitution because I have experienced being already censured under the 1987 Constitution. And that is settled.

Q: Well, does that mean that unless or until the matter is settled, a vote cannot be taken?

SP: We will have to finish the debate first before we vote for the measure. This committee report that I prepared is just like any other measures where I will allow the senators to clarify, to ask questions if they have any doubts about it and to argue certain points. Then after the period of interpellation, if there are no proposed amendments to it, then the voting will follow.

Q: Do you have any timetable? Is there an ideal time within which to wrap up this entire issue?

SP: I have no timetable. I have to leave it to the membership of the Senate. Otherwise, they might think that I have got them again or I'm a dictator inside the Senate. I will leave it to the body. If the motion is made to close between that interpellation because there are no other interpellater, then that's it.

Q: Finally, what was it that you did to compel the presence of the Senators to form a quorum? Is it possible that a quorum will not be formed today?

SP: No, I think that they will be coming. Since our time is of the essence for us because we have very few days and I hope they understand that we need to dispose many of these issues. The people are watching us. And I will leave it to the legal sense of the motion, the decision and the responsibility of the members of the Senate. And if there's a boycott, then under the Constitution, the remaining members of the Senate who are present can make the motion or a decision to cause the Sergeant-at-Arms to bring the other members boycotting the session to the Chamber to do their work.

Q: Well, you have threatened to do precisely that before but I guess it wasn't necessary in the previous session because quorum was formed.

SP: I hate to do this. But if it becomes necessary to save the interest of the country, then I will do it.

Q: I suppose there will be opportunity to interpellate you about the claims that Senator Villar had attempted to bribe you. Do you anticipate that?

SP: I would welcome any interpellation on that. I had a companion when this lunch took place. Senator Villar went there alone. He had no companion. I was expecting that he would be accompanied by somebody. But evidently, he did not bring anybody simply because he was going to talk the way he talks.

Q: So the fact that you had a companion means that your version is the more accurate one as it is buttressed by...

SP: We have no reason to fabricate these things. And I think the gentleman knows where the true truth lies.

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