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(Updated 8:35 p.m.) In a case of a neophyte lawmaker locking horns with a veteran politician, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV engaged Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in a word war Wednesday, accusing him of being a lackey of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Enrile responded by calling Trillanes a fraud. Trillanes, during a privilege speech, also announced that he is leaving the majority bloc in the Senate to join the minority effective immediately. "I have lost trust, faith and confidence in Senator Enrile’s capability to lead the Senate along the path consistent with the reform agenda that I espouse," he said. Trillanes said he reached the decision after witnessing how Enrile is handling House Bill 4820, which seeks to divide Camarines Sur into two provinces and create the new province of Nueva Camarines in the Bicol region. Enrile, meanwhile, called Trillanes a fraud for allegedly undermining the Philippines’ interest in his backchannel talks with Chinese authorities regarding the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal. Reading from the notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady, Enrile said had manifested that the Philippines does not care about the Panatag Shoal. "Pilipino ba ‘yan? makabayan ba ‘yan? What kind of senator is this?" he said. "My God this guy is a fraud." Oppositors of the bill believe splitting the province is meant to create new districts to benefit political families there. Sen. Joker Arroyo, who is from Bicol, said dividing the province would benefit only the people of the province’s fourth district, home turf of Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, who is on his last term as congressman. Camarines Sur Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte Sr., who supports the division, was quoted in reports as saying that the bill has unified the group of Fuentebella and legislators identified with Arroyo: Rep. Rolando Andaya of the first district, a long time budget chief of Mrs. Arroyo, and Rep. Dato Arroyo, the former president’s son. Both Dato Arroyo and Andaya had benefited from the creation of an additional district in Camarines Sur in 2010, as they were supposed to run against each other in a single district. In his privilege speech Wednesday, Trillanes said: "Everyone in this august chamber knows that this bill is gerrymandering in its worst kind, particularly, one that would provide for new elective positions to accommodate two three-term congressmen. "But if it were so, why would our Senate President be particularly interested to the point of straining relations with members of the very Senate that he leads? Is it just to please Congressman Villafuerte?" he said. Trillanes was referring to a Senate caucus where Villafuerte was allowed to enter an all-senator caucus to talk about the bill. Back then, Trillanes said he wanted to enter his opposition but was prevented by Enrile. "I got out of that caucus feeling trampled upon by a bully determined to get his way. My neophyte instincts were telling me then to just keep the peace and get out of his way. But then, the public servant in me just couldn't let this thing pass," he said. "Why would he rush it to the point of dictating on a chief of staff of a fellow senator on what his principal should do and when he should schedule his committee hearings? Worse, our Senate President didn’t even cancel the session at the height of the habagat rains when all government agencies already did, just so this bill could be tackled," he added. First time Enrile, during the same session, said it was the first time in his whole career as a senator that he has been accused of railroading or pressuring people in the Senate. According to him, Villafuerte was in the caucus to explain the timeline for the passage of the bill. "That was the reason why Congressman Villafuerte was asked to enter the room because I did not know about the timeline he was talking about and you did not know this because you were late," he told Trillanes. "Did I say anything to pressure you, to favor one side or the other?" he then asked the neophyte senator. Irrational behavior Trillanes said the explanation for Enrile's "irrational behavior" was finally revealed by a news report published on the Philippine Star last September 6, which said it was Mrs. Arroyo who personally called up Enrile to speed up the passage of the measure. "With this totally unexpected twist, everything seemed to fall into place. Now, there remain only two possibilities: that our Senate President is deeply indebted to GMA [Mrs. Arroyo's initials]; or that he is a GMA lackey," he said. As a Navy junior officer back then, Trillanes has joined several military uprisings against the Arroyo administration. On Enrile’s explanation on what transpired in the caucus, Trillanes said he does not see the "relevance" of it. "That's not the point, after Senator [Franklin] Drilon spoke, I registered my opposition on the bill and the Senate President brushed me off. Sabi ninyo okay na ito," he said. But Enrile said Trillanes should have entered his opposition on the floor and not during the caucus. "Your opposition should have been registered here because we're going to vote here anyway and that was a caucus. We have already agreed on a timeline," he said. He said he only listened to Villafuerte because as Senate President, it was his duty to listen to everybody. "Is there any instance where I asked you or any one of you to vote according to my wishes?" Enrile asked. 'Irrelevant,' 'falsehoods' Trillanes, however, said this was "irrelevant." Enrile said Trillanes only thought it was irrelevant because he was "telling falsehoods." "You are telling falsehoods here because there are records of our proceedings," he said. "Isn't it a fact that you are angry at me because you asked me for an additional budget for your oversight committee and I did not allow it," he added. Trillanes denied this, prompting Enrile to berate him further. "I was the one who took you out of the rut while you were in prison in Camp Crame. I never did this before. I went out of my way to talk to people so that you can get back here in the Senate and I guaranteed your presence here, but I'm not saying this because I want you to owe any favor to me. I'm just putting that on record to show the character of each one of us here," he said.
Enrile also called Trillanes a fraud for allegedly undermining the Philippines’ interest in his backchannel talks with Chinese authorities regarding the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal. Reading from the notes of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady, Enrile said had manifested that the Philippines does not care about the Panatag Shoal.
"Pilipino ba ‘yan? makabayan ba ‘yan? What kind of senator is this?" he said. "My God this guy is a fraud."Jinggoy backs Enrile In a separate privilege speech on Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada defended Enrile over the accusations of Trillanes. "Juan Ponce Enrile is not a lackey of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or of anyone for that matter, that I'm really certain of," he said. He also said that he has known Enrile for a long time and that he would never characterize him as a "bully." "He never takes an instiutional stand without consulting the chamber. He woud often call us for a caucus on matters which are serious and contentious. I dare any of my coleagues to refute this," he said. "They have seen the Senate president's style of leadership. At bulag or bingi lamang ang magsasabing isinasagasa niya ang kanyang gusto," he added. Estrada, meanwhile, said it would have "served [Trillanes] better by facing up and answering the questions raised by the Senate president on a very sensitive and delicate issue." "Ang kanyang pag-alis sa gitna ng diskusyon or pagtatanong ay maaring masabi ng ilan na kaduwagan," he said.— RSJ/KBK, GMA News