By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
The last stretch of regular sessions at the Philippine Congress each year are largely unremarkable. Even their schedule is nondescript–two weekdays snuck in at the end of summer vacation. And every three years, it comes just after the winners of the incoming Congress have been proclaimed.
This routine resumption avails little for the news media attuned more to clashes, exposés and sensational investigations. But it was different when the Senate briefly returned to session on June 5, 2013.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile opened the plenary with a privilege speech blasting the critics among his colleagues, ruing over his son Jack’s failed Senate run, and finally, tendering his resignation as Senate President. He then left the session hall, no longer to return till the next Congress.
Broadcast outlets, some of whom got wind of Enrile’s apparent bombshell a day before, came early that day to set up control booths for airing the speech live.
What Enrile would say was expected to be hot copy after days of news about the impending change of the guard in the Senate once the administration-heavy lineup of winning solons took their seats in July.
Few foreknew that he would resign.
Before the session began, a Senate staff member expressed hopes that the speech would avoid controversy. It would only divert attention—and precious time—from the pile of last-minute legislative work.
The speech indeed did its work, and the session was paralyzed for the rest of the day. Yet not all of Enrile’s opponents were present to hear his attacks.
A TV news producer got the text and scanned it quickly, circling any references to other senators. He then told the live feed director near him whose reaction to show next: Senators Antonio Trillanes, Pia Cayetano, or Franklin Drilon. The two men, seated apart, were caught smiling during key points in the speech.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who engaged Enrile in a personal debate months back, only showed up after Enrile walked out.