Press Release
February 7, 2010


Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today said the abrupt adjournment of the Senate session on Feb. 3 due to lack of quorum should be blamed on the Senate leadership more than anything else.

Pimentel also doubted whether the Senate will have the time to take up pending priority bills and the investigation report on the C-5 road mess when Congress reconvenes on May 31 to canvass the votes cast in the presidential and vice presidential elections.

He said there were 16 senators with the majority which Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile could rely on to ensure a quorum. On the other hand, he said there were only five senators with the minority - Pimentel, Manuel Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Joker Arroyo.

"To my mind, what happened, when not enough senators showed up to constitute a quorum, was attributable to a failure of leadership in the Senate. There was too much partisanship which divided the Senate and did irreparable harm. This was the first time that this happened in the history of the Senate," he said.

"Considering the circumstances, I think the Senate leadership divided the Senate into hostile camps instead of having the senators work together for the good of the nation."

Pimentel said he had earlier broached the idea of holding an all senators' caucus to set the rules for the voting on priority bills including the Committee of the Whole's report on the C-5 road extension project involving Sen. Manuel Villar.

He said the senators, during the caucus, should have agreed on which bills should be approved first and without too much debates. He said this would have also enabled them to craft and agree on whether the C-5 report should be voted upon by a qualified majority of 12 senators, an absolute majority of l6 or a plurality of the quorum.

He said that this was ignored by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Pimentel said although he and other minority senators were not at the session hall on Feb. 3, they were monitoring the proceedings on the floor. He said they were surprised when the session was adjourned for lack of quorum.

"As a matter of fact, I just came from my doctor when I rushed to join the group that was monitoring. And before we knew it, Senate President Enrile banged the gavel and the session was adjourned," he said.

The minority leader said that although there were only 11 senators inside the session hall at that time, they could have awaited for their colleagues to arrive to muster the quorum. For instance, he noted that Sen. Edgardo Angara did not arrive on time because he was delivering a speech at a conference on the pre-need industry in the afternoon with the permission of the Senate president.

Pimentel said although the Senate in practice holds plenary session from Monday to Wednesday only, it could have extended the session up to Thursday or Friday to approve pending bills, specially those already finalized and passed by the bicameral conference panels. He said that based on the legislative calendar, the Congress was scheduled to adjourn Feb. 5.

"Why was the Senate session suddenly declared adjourned on Feb. 3, Wednesday? In my view, Manong Johnny was afraid that some members of the majority might turn their back on him and he may be ousted in a leadership coup," he said.

Pimentel said the coup attempt was first confirmed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and later by Sen. Lito Lapid, who admitted having signed a resolution for a Senate reorganization. He said he had nothing to do with the ouster plot contrary to Enrile's suspicion that he had instigated it. He said he never saw a copy of the oust-Enrile resolution. He said he was in Geneva attending a meeting of the committee of the human rights of parliamentarians of the Inter Parliamentary Union when the supposed coup plot was uncovered.

He said it would be very difficult for the Senate to tackle the leftover bills and reports when it reconvenes on May 2l because it will be fully preoccupied with its joint task with the House of Representatives as national board of canvassers for the presidential and vice presidential elections.

Moreover, Pimentel pointed out that it will be a joint session of the Senate and House to be held at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

"I think the C-5 report is dead. But although it is now buried, that will be used as a political issue during the election campaign," he said.

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