(Update) Enrile ousts Villar in Senate coup

Posted at 11/17/08 4:27 PM

Senator Manuel Villar on Monday stepped down from the presidency of the Senate in a leadership shake-up that installed Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as the new Senate president.

In an interview on ANC after his ouster, Villar said he stepped down after realizing he had lost the support of the majority of the senators.

He declined to speculate on the reasons for the Senate coup, which came after two major Senate investigations involving the P728-million fertilizer fund scam and the Moscow cash scandal.

In a statement at the session of the Senate, Villar said his stepping down would give him more time to be a fiscalizer and be with people in the countryside and his family.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson nominated Enrile as the new Senate president.

Senator Richard Gordon supported Lacson's nomination.

Fourteen voted in favor of the motion nominating Enrile; five abstained.

Enrile took his oath after getting the majority vote of the senators.

In his acceptance speech, Enrile vowed a leadership that would strengthen the integrity of the Senate.

"I can only accomplish so much with your help and support," he said.

Villar, president of the Nacionalista Party, has declared his interest in running for the presidency in 2010. He was recently embroiled in the C-5 road project controversy. 

In an interview on ANC, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza welcomed the election of Enrile as the new Senate president.

He said the "nation will benefit from Enrile's long experience as a public servant."

Dureza said Malacañang had no hand in the Senate coup, saying it was the Senate's collective decision to install Enrile.

Former Cong. Gilbert Remulla, a member of Villar's Nacionalista Party, told radio dzMM that the revival of the fertilizer fund scam and the euro generals probe could have triggered the Senate coup.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, and majority floor leader Senator Francis Pangilinan also resigned from their posts.

Cayetano told ANC there will be a new majority and a new minority in the Senate.  He said it would be up to the new chair of the blue ribbon committee how to proceed with the probe on the fertilizer fund scam.

Enrile is a former member of Joseph Estrada's party, Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino. He was a former defense minister under the Marcos regime and was linked to several coup attempts during the Aquino presidency.