The real motives behind the Senate coup
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-11-20

This Chair Wrecker had just praised the Senate for its hearings last week when on the first working day of this week — it showed its ugly face.

That Manny Villar had been ousted as Senate President was par for the course and he gallantly said so himself when he tendered his resignation. Senate Presidents, like House Speakers, serve at the pleasure of their peers.

But when the pleasure of the peers who replaced a Senate President is simply founded on narrow self interests — sans any tinge of benefit for people and country — that is when we should take issue.

The majority of the voters of this country decided to elect an Opposition Senate during the May 2007 Senate elections. When Manny Villar had to resort to forging an alliance with some administration Senators because the presidential wannabes in the Opposition conspired to remove him from the Senate Presidency, the outwitted presidential wannabes (Senators Mar Roxas, Panfilo Lacson and Loren Legarda) and vice presidential wannabe (Senator Jamby Madrigal), all wailed and moaned that Villar had betrayed the Opposition.

And yet, it was Villar who sat in the Senate President’s chair and from the performance of his duties we all saw that he remained with the Opposition. Senate hearings that were adverse to the administration — like the ZTE, Fertilizer Fund and PNP Moscow Fund investigations — were conducted.

But what did 2010 wannabes Roxas, Lacson, Legarda and Madrigal do in this recent coup? They handed the Senate Presidency to the very epitome of administration support in the Senate, Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile. How can Roxas, Lacson, Legarda and Madrigal now claim to be stalwarts of the Opposition?

We all saw how Juan Ponce-Enrile defended the embattled Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) during the investigations that threatened her regime. Who in his right mind would place a man like Juan Ponce-Enrile as Senate President at this time and expect that he will maintain the independence of the Senate which is the only institution that is not under GMA’s control?

This display of bad judgment on the part of Roxas, Lacson, Legarda and Madrigal is the best reason not to even consider them for the positions they covet in 2010. They not only ceded an Opposition bastion to GMA but they also facilitated the very strong possibility that Charter change (Cha cha) will now be attained by the administration.

Lacson, in his usual manner of taking cheap shots, tried to explain the Villar ouster as the result of questions he raised against Villar’s integrity — referring to his ‘Road to Nowhere’ expose that turned out to be another Lacson dud. Lacson never proved his case and even Juan Ponce-Enrile, during the Finance Committee investigation, confirmed that.

Interviewed after the Senate coup, Senator Nene Pimentel reiterated the point that the ouster had nothing to do with the ‘Road to Nowhere’ issue which has not established any proof. To his credit and that too of Senator Noynoy Aquino, Pimentel and Aquino both abstained from signing the ouster document.

The truth is the Villar ouster had everything to do with Villar’s high ratings in the early 2010 presidential polls. Villar has been topping or placing a very close second in both SWS and Pulse Asia 2010 presidential surveys. In both the most recent SWS and Pulse Asia 2010 presidential surveys, Villar was a whisker away (just 1%) from the leading presidentiable, Vice President Noli de Castro.

Lacson’s ‘Road to Nowhere’ dud of an expose was all about destabilizing Villar’s ratings in the presidential polls and removing Villar from the Senate Presidency.

Juan Ponce-Enrile, in an interview with ANC’s Tony Velasquez shortly after he was sworn in as the new Senate President, stated that the coup was instigated by the Opposition and not by the administration. Enrile claimed that sitting as Senate President was never in his radar screen until the instigators — or shall we say conspirators — showed that they have sufficient numbers to mount the coup.

It would have been acceptable if they replaced Villar with Senator Nene Pimentel as Senate President (which was the conspirators’ original plan after the May 2007 Senate elections). It would have been palatable if the conspirators placed Mar Roxas as Senate President. At least, they placed an Opposition member as Senate President.

But for the conspirators from the Opposition to award the Senate Presidency to just about the staunchest defender of GMA in the Senate — Juan Ponce-Enrile — the millions who voted to install an Opposition Senate have all the reasons to feel betrayed and look down on the conspirators as traitors.

The blind ambition of the conspirators, in their bloodthirsty rage to oust Villar from the Senate Presidency, made them want nothing else but to trip the leading Opposition racer, the object of their envy. In so doing, they did not only trip a leading Opposition racer in 2010 but they may have destroyed altogether the entire racetrack.

In other words, no more 2010 presidential elections, now that GMA has both the House and the Senate under administration leadership to pave the way for Charter change.

What happens now if Enrile and the administration Senators join hands with the administration majority in Congress and vote in favor of Charter change via constituent assembly? These narrow-minded and self-seeking conspirators from the Opposition overlooked the importance of the symbolism Enrile brings with him as Senate President.

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