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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Thursday said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was lying when he alleged that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on the Senate chief to push for the passage of the bill dividing Camarines Sur.
"I have no phone call from GMA [Mrs. Arroyo's initials]. There was none," Enrile told reporters in an interview. In a report on GMA News TV's News to Go, Elena Bautista-Horn, spokesperson of Mrs. Arroyo, also denied that the former Philippine leader made a phone call to Enrile on the matter. Mrs. Arroyo now represents the second district of Pampanga in the House of Representatives.
,On Wednesday, Trillanes accused Enrile of pushing for the passage of House Bill 4820, which seeks to divide Camarines Sur into two provinces and create the new province of Nueva Camarines in the Bicol region, on the request of Mrs. Arroyo. Accusing Enrile of being a lackey of Mrs. Arroyo, Trillanes then bolted the majority in the Senate and joined the minority. "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. But in denying Trillanes' accusation, Enrile said: "Hindi ako nilapitan ni President Arroyo o ni President Aquino tungkol sa CamSur, hindi ko alam at palagay ko walang senador na nakakaalam na interesado si President Arroyo tungkol sa paghahati ng probinsya ng Camarines Sur."
"This is strange information to us which makes me believe that Trillanes is lying and that he is using this in order to cover his ass," he added. "Siguro gusto niyang gamitin yun para lumabo yung usapan... sasabihin niya na siya ay kontra kay GMA."
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.Friends with Mrs. Arroyo
Admitting he was friends with Mrs. Arroyo, Enrile said he has no personal interest in the division of the province.
"Kaya lamang ay dapat pagbotohan dito para malaman ang desisyon ng Senado dahil ang maghuhusga diyan ultimately ay mga taga-Camarines Sur, hindi kami, sapagkat sila ang magbobotohan kung hahatiin nila yung probinsya," he said.
"At sa aking paningin, dapat bigyan natin ng pagkakataon ang mga taga-Camarines Sur na magdecide kung gusto nilang hatiin ang probinsya nila o hindi yun lang naman sa akin," he added.
Senator Bongbong Marcos Jr., chair of the committee hearing the CamSur bill, said he only heard about Mrs. Arroyo's supposed phone call from Trillanes and another person. Marcos is the chairman of the Senate committee on local government.
"We heard that one of the people who told us was Sen. Trillanes. I don't, know it's possible. [But] I don't want to ascribe motives to anything he [Enrile] is doing," Marcos said.
But he stressed that Enrile never pressured him to do anything.
"What he has been telling me continuously... reminding me, is time of the essence. May hard deadline which is the filing, not naman madaliin, sana paabutin," he said.
"That's the only thing he would tell me about itbut he would always [say after] I'm not telling you what to do but may time element itong bill na ito," he added.
Marcos likewise said that no one from Mrs. Arroyo's camp approached him.
"Ang kumakausap lang sa akin yung proponents. Sila ang mga naglalakad dito," he said. — RSJ, GMA News