By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III is brushing aside the statements of former Senate chief Juan Ponce Enrile whom he believes is criticizing the current members of the Upper Chamber in time for the 2019 midterm elections.
In a radio interview on Saturday, Sotto said he would rather not dwell on the criticisms of Enrile as he maintained that Senate is exercising due diligence in passing pieces of legislation.
Enrile, who is seeking a return in the Upper Chamber in next year’s polls, issued anew a statement on Saturday saying there was “something lacking” with how the present members of the Upper House tackle issues of national and international concern. He told voters to elect officials with “enough” sense and experience, adding that the “the breadth and the width and depth of their (current senators’) experience are not enough.”
“Obvious na obvious na pangkampanya, maganda na statement para sa kandidato…
Ganoon na talaga ang mga kandidato, pangkampanya. Alam ko namang di tama, bakit ko naman papatulan (It’s very obvious that he was saying those to campaign for the elections…That’s how politicians are when it comes to campaigning. I know that that is not true so why would I bother)?” Sotto told DWIZ.
Sotto said he does not take the Enrile remarks personally, saying that the veteran lawmaker may only have been “misinformed.”
He reiterated that the incumbent Senate does not approve bills “coffee-table” style, citing anew their long debates on measures of national significance.
“Ang mga kandidato kung minsan kung ano-ano nasasabi sa publiko, kung minsan based on misinformation. Ganoon lang yon, kasi alam kong di totoo kaya di ko dinadamdam,” Sotto said, noting that Enrile remains his “friend.”
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who also led the Senate before Sotto, said that while he does not disagree with Enrile on the qualifications of senators, the voters still have the final say on who to elect.
“Tama po ‘yon, pero ang nagdedecIde hindi siya: ang taong-bayan (He’s right, but it is the people, not him, who would decide). Kung sa mata ng 15 milyong katao (If 15 million people believe that) you have enough experience, enough competence, then you rightfully belong to the Senate. Nagsalita ang taong-bayan, eh (The people have spoken),” Pimentel said in a separate interview.
He also denied that the Upper Chamber was lax in scrutinizing measures, citing their debates on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, as well as on the proposed 2019 budget.
It is normal, he said, that bills of “minor importance” breeze through the chamber and are less deliberated.
Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes also hit Enrile for his remarks, saying it was the 94-year-old politician who practiced “transactional legislation.”
Trillanes recalled how Enrile engaged in such during the debates on the proposed division of the Camarines Sur province.
“It was Enrile who practiced transactional legislation when he was Senate President. I witnessed this myself when he was assuring then congressman Luis Villafuerte, his fellow Marcos cabinet member, that the division of Camarines Sur would be fast tracked,” Trillanes said in a statement.
“But then I spoiled their plan because it was being done purely for gerrymandering purposes,” he added.