Press Release
October 11, 2010

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

On the Shutdown of Senator Lacson's Office

Q: Sir, sa pagsara po ng office ni Senator Lacson, how much money po ang dapat i-account sa COA?

SP: 'Yung kanyang budget is between P1-2 million every month. Kasama na roon ang salary ng kanyang staff, MOE at rentals. Ang salary niya mismo as a senator ay hindi yata kasama roon.

Q: Sir, bakit po pumayag na kayo at pinirmahan niyo na ang memo?

SP: Dahil in the beginning, we thought that he would come back. If you remember, I said that before June 30, that I thought he would be coming back. Evidently, there was a problem because the Court denied his request for a re-investigation of his case. To be fair to Senator Lacson, I've studied his case and I have my own notion as a lawyer about the strength of the case against him. I think, based on my own knowledge of criminal law and evidence, if I were to handle his case, I would have a fair chance of acquitting him. But be that as it may, the problem will remain to be decided by the Court. It is now in the hands of the judicial branch to dispose of his case and not even the President or Congress can interfere. So, given the situation and because of the information I received from the Secretary of the Senate that the Commission on Audit expressed some reservation regarding the continuation of supporting the financial needs of the office of Senator Lacson, I notified his staff that the Senate would not have any choice except to discontinue supporting the budget of Senator Lacson in the meantime. Now, as head of the Senate, I did not assume the responsibility of deciding that alone. I had to call a meeting or a caucus of the members of the Senate, both the Majority and Minority, and presented the issue to them. And so, all of us agreed that while we wanted to be sympathetic and fair to a colleague in the Senate, on the other hand, we have a responsibility to the Filipino people and to the laws of the country to see to it that we will not, in any way, violate the laws because of our notion that no one is above the law in this country.

Q: Sir, is this a message that he should come back now?

SP: Well, not really. That depends upon his own discretion. He's a human being. He thinks of his own good. And I think we will have to respect that. Nonetheless, we have to do our obligation to the country, to the institution that we represent, and that's why we have to act. It is painful for us to do that to a colleague. Nonetheless, we have to do it but we also have to see to it that his people, the members of his staff, will not be unduly dislocated.

Q: Sir, clarify lang po namin 'yung effectivity po ng memo. Katapusan po ba ng October?

SP: Immediately. Effective October.

Q: What will happen to the staff of Senator Lacson?

SP: The staff of Senator Lacson will be transferred to the Secretariat in the meantime.

Q: Sir, bakit sabi nila hindi pa raw nila alam ang gagawin nila?

SP: Trabaho na 'yon ng Secretariat at Committee on Accounts.

Q: Sir, ano na ang mangyayari sa committee chairmanship niya?

SP: Wala na nga siyang committee ngayon. The Committee on Accounts is now placed temporarily under the Majority Floor Leader.

Q: Sir, his office will be locked out?

SP: Just to show that the Senate considers his absence as really true and correct, we have to close the office. We do not want anybody to use it.

Q: Sir, kailan po 'yung last day talaga kasi nag-ooffice pa sila today?

SP: The members of the staff of Senator Lacson will continue to get their salaries because they are still working for the Senate.

Q: Sir, how will this affect the Ethics complained filed against Senator Villar?

SP: Well, it cannot proceed because he is absent.

Q: Sir, ano na magiging status ni Senator Lacson? Is he still considered as a member of the Senate?

SP: He is still a member of the Senate but he's not active.

Q: Can we say that he is in AWOL?

SP: We do not have that term in the Senate.

Q: How about abandonment?

SP: You cannot say that he abandoned his job because there is a reason for it. There's involuntariness.

Q: Sir, kung sakaling bumalik siya, wala naman pong magiging problema?

SP: Kapag bumalik siya, kagaya ni Senator Trillanes, although he will be confined, he will be actively performing his job, then he will be placed under the same status.

Q: Bubuksan ulit 'yung office niya, sir?

SP: Yes. Yung kay Senator Trillanes, pinag-aaralan pa namin at pinag-aaralan ko rin dahil gusto namin na makapagtrabaho siya. Although, subject to the restrictions that the Court may impose. That's why I've been trying to work out the possibility of transferring his custody to the Senate. We are not saying that he should be released or that he should be bailed. He's not going to be bailed but he would still be under confinement but the place of confinement will be transferred from Camp Crame to the Senate. We will put a place for him here under guard and under such restrictions as the Court may impose.

Q: You will do the same thing to Senator Lacson, sir?

SP: If we can succeed in the case of Senator Trillanes.

Q: Test case, sir?

SP: It is an effort on our part to find a practical way to make this people elected by the Filipino people to represent them to work for their good.

Q: Sir, is it already affecting the performance of the Senate, at least two senators ang wala?

SP: Dalawang senators ang immobilized. Isang bakante. So, effectively ilan lang kaming nagtatrabaho ngayon, 21. We are suppose to be 24. And it will affect the decisional capability of the Senate because we normally operate on the basis of majority rule unless the Constitution says otherwise. In the case of impeachment, you need 16 senators to impeach anyone or to punish anyone under impeachment.

Q: Sir, anong epekto kung wala kayong majority kapag nagdedecision?

SP: Kung wala, paralyzed. Kung there are less than 16 senators working, how can you make a decision in an impeachment case? In the ratification of treaties? Mga settled number 'yan in the quorum of the Senate.

Q: Mas nakakabigat ba sa remaining senators na dalawa 'yung hindi nagfa-function?

SP: Oo. Kung magkaroon ng problema sa selection ng Senate president ulit, maaapektuhan din 'yon. Kailangan mo 13 senators.

Q: Given the situation nga sir, hindi ba pwedeng bilangin based kung sino lang ang active senators?

SP: Hindi pwede. The Constitution says a majority of all the members of the Senate. Membership is 24. Nakalagay 'yon, 2/3 of all the members of the Senate, 3/4 of all the members of the Senate.

Q: How do you intend to address this problem?

SP: I cannot address it. I'll have to go to the Filipino people and tell them, please let us change the Constitution that you made for us.

Q: Sir, kailan po ipa-padlock 'yung office ni Senator Lacson?

SP: Iniwan ko na 'yon sa Secretary.

Q: Sir, hindi niyo pa po nakakausap 'yung anak, 'yung chief of staff ni Senator Lacson?

SP: Hindi but the Secretary of the Senate issued a memo which I approved.

On Senator Trillanes

Q: If Trillanes were to be placed under your custody, can he come up to the session hall or committee hearings?

SP: He can attend the sessions under guard. He can attend committee hearings under guard depending upon the approval of the Court if they will approve that. That's why we are not saying that we decide how will conduct himself. The Court will write an order to us defining the conduct of Senator Trillanes because he is under the jurisdiction and control of the Court.

Q: The Senate will write the Court na parang motion?

SP: No. I'll tell you very frankly what I'm going to do. I'm going to make an appointment with the judge and discuss it with him without intruding into the domain of judicial process. As head of the Senate, I will do that informally and if he says no, I will respect him. But if he says yes, we can do it, then I will then advise the lawyers of Senator Trillanes to file the proper motions and let the Court issue the order without any interference or any influence from us and he will dictate the manner Senator Trillanes will conduct himself in the Senate. He can say, well, you cannot deliver privilege speeches. You cannot have interviews or press conferences or you cannot do this and do that or you cannot go outside the building of the Senate. In other words, the whole situation is in the hands of the Court.

Q: Sir, when is your plan na makipag-appointment sa judge?

SP: I don't know yet. I'm still making an arrangement.

Q: Sir, mayroon daw malapit kay Senator Ping na nagpapasaklolo kay President Noy.

SP: Wala akong balita.

Q: Mayroon bang pwedeng gawin si President Noy regarding dito?

SP: Palagay ko, the President cannot do much kasi nasa husgado na.

Q: Sir, hindi appealable 'yung content ng inissue niyong memo?

SP: Walang appeal. Decision ng Senate 'yon. Hindi ko desisyon 'yon. Desisyon 'yon ng Senado. I'm just carrying out the consensus in the Senate.

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