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Enrile announces irrevocable resignation as Senate president


(Updated 6:04 p.m.) Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday announced his irrevocable resignation as head of the upper chamber, in the wake of the administration's overwhelming victory in the May polls and accusations of impropriety hurled against him.

The resignation punctuated a strongly worded privilege speech where Enrile defended himself from allegations, some of them coming from his own colleagues, that included the "cash gifts" he supposedly gave to favored senators in late 2012.

"As a matter of personal honor and dignity, I hereby irrevocably resign as Senate President. With the constantly shifting political tides, to muster the support of the majority of your colleagues and to maintain that support long enough, to achieve something for the people is a feat in itself," he said.

His resignation came on the last session day of the 15th Congress, and less than a month after the May 13 midterm elections where nine of President Benigno Aquino's III's handpicked candidates won seats in the Senate against three from the opposition, which Enrile supported.

Palace: JPE strove to live up to Senate tradition of independence and oversight

Malacañang on Wednesday said it respects Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's decision to resign as Senate president, noting his contributions to the Aquino administration's legislative agenda.

In a statement released shortly after Enrile announced his resignation, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson said that in "four years, six months, and 19 days" that Enrile was Senate president, he supported the enactment of President Benigno Aquino III's priority bills.

"Conscious of the long and distinguished history of the Senate and the office he held, Senator Enrile approached the constitution functions of the Senate in our bicameral legislative system with the utmost seriousness," it said.

"He strove to live up to the Senate's tradition of independence and oversight," the statement continued.

Malacañang also said as one of the Senate's veteran members, Enrile's "voice, views, and expertise in the legislative process will continue to contribute to the crafting of laws and the deliberations of the upper house." — Gian Geronimo/KBK, GMA News
"I carried the brunt of four of my colleagues’ anger and displeasure over not receiving what they felt they were entitled to as their share of the savings of the Senate," Enrile said.

He said the accusations against him had made his position untenable.

"With the cloud of doubt and suspicion that my adversaries have successfully foisted upon my person, my honor and my leadership, it is not far-fetched for them to make the people believe that I will expend the resources of the Senate, the people’s money no less, and use the powers of the Senate Presidency just to hold on to this position," Enrile said.

A veteran politician, Enrile was among the stalwarts of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the rival coalition of the administration in the May 13 elections.

He attributed the unsuccessful senatorial bid of his son, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, to the "enmity" in the Senate.

"The common analysis of political observers was that my son's candidacy suffered from the fall-out of the bitter criticisms and accusations hurled against me by some people in this Chamber who I had displeased, just as we were entering the political campaign season," he said.

In his last three years at the Senate, Enrile vowed to clear his name: "I do not need nor intend to use the powers, perquisites and trappings of the Senate Presidency just to cling to it or to secure this position for myself when the 16th Congress opens in July."

Sen. Franklin Drilon, a close ally of President Aquino, is being eyed to head the Senate in the next Congress.

Due to Enrile's resignation, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada was designated as acting Senate president until Congress adjourns later in the day.

Tirades vs fellow senators
 
Before announcing his resignation, Enrile lashed out on some of his fellow senators, whom he said hurled "bitter criticisms and accusations" against him weeks before the campaign season.
 
"The enmity that marked the ending of our session days last January and early February was carried well into the campaign. This was helped in no small measure by the virulent personal attacks against me by a non-candidate senator who fashions herself as my nemesis and who evidently delights in doing the job," Enrile said, without naming who the senator was. 
 
"There were, of course, many others who had their own reasons for ensuring that I was ruined, and that, consequently, my son’s candidacy was ruined," he added.
 
Enrile likewise criticized a "young senator" who supposedly said that he [Enrile] "has not done anything good for this country."
 
Enrile also took an apparent swipe at Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, whom he said accused him of being "a scoundrel."
 
"I refuse to stand idly by when no less than the son of my former partner, the late Senator Renato L. Cayetano, would dare accuse me of being a thief or a scoundrel," Enrile said.
 
'Drama for the media'
 
Cayetano, for his part, said that while he is "sad" that Enrile had to resign, he still wants to hear explanations to issues on the Senate's funds.
 
"As a public servant, I cannot allow my emotions to get the better of me. He [Enrile] is yet to answer the questions the issues raised against him on how the Senate funds are spent," he said.
 
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who also once traded barbs with Enrile on the Senate floor, meanwhile belittled the Senate president's resignation as mere "drama for the media."
 
"It is sad, but that is who he is. If not for that, we won't talk about anything right now. He is bitter about something so let us let him be. It is his moment," Trillanes said. — KBK/YA/RSJ, GMA News