Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye greeted the news that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile had entered into a "working coalition" with the Senate majority as a "welcome development." And then in a classic case of talking-through-one’s-hat, he ventured a longer explanation:
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said that the Palace believed Enrile when he said that his decision to move to the Senate majority was for the national interest. “We thank Senator Enrile for taking such a position because this is the same position taken by the President, that unity should be based on the national interest,” he said.
I suppose Bunye, an able lawyer who takes his role as explainer-in-chief seriously, really didn’t have much to go by. But he — and the Palace — would be wrong to think that Enrile’s working coalition is necessarily a plus for the President. Or that "national interest" as Enrile defines it will necessarily coincide with the President’s definition. Writes Amando Doronila (the "whippersnapper," in Manolo Quezon’s naughty joke, who fell victim to the wily octogenarian in Wednesday’s Commission on Appointments hearing):
While the switch of Enrile to the working majority weakens the opposition in the Senate, it also creates instability in the majority, which is not bound by steadfast loyalty to the President.
Doronila also observed:
The new majority is a mixed group, composed mainly of independent-minded senators whose position on legislative issues is not defined by party affiliation. There is less certainty of their votes in an impeachment trial.
Note also that Enrile cleared his qualified defection with Joseph Estrada himself.
“I cleared it with the president of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino, Erap,” Enrile, who chairs PMP, told reporters Thursday. “And then I discussed this with Senator (Jinggoy) Estrada and Senator Dr. Loi Estrada.”
“He (the senior Estrada) agreed. He allowed me to go ahead and establish a working coalition with the majority in the Senate.”
So it could be that Enrile, again, is "laying the predicate" in the Senate, but for what end? The answer may not necessarily be to the President’s liking.
PS 1. Sen. Manuel Villar, who knows a thing or two about the right time to leave one’s principal, and who had entered into a now-defunct term-sharing arrangement with Senate President Franklin Drilon, is also making noises about his wife’s possible endorsement of the impeachment complaint against the President. This, I should think, makes the Enrile element in the Senate periodic table even more unstable.
PS 2. On a slightly off-tangent note, Edwin Lacierda tackles three legal arguments often heard in the impeachment debate, in a bracing brief that does not necessarily look kindly on his fellow lawyers. Or the people’s representatives in Congress.