Gigi Apologizes To Cayetano

MANILA, Philippines --- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's chief of staff, lawyer Jessica Lucile "Gigi" Reyes, yesterday apologized for the "hurtful" remarks she uttered against Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, admitting she committed "serious ethical breach" in calling the senator a "hypocrite."

Reyes issued her lengthy statement a day after Enrile refuted insinuations of a "special relationship" between him and his closest aide, the subject of Cayetano's privilege speech where he criticized the unequal distribution of Senate savings among senators and bared the unusual clout Enrile's chief of staff exercises in the Senate.

Reyes said she profusely apologizes to Cayetano for her disrespectful and offensive statements and overbearing tenor when she was interviewed over radio DZMM where she called Cayetano, and the other three senators who were critical of the Senate President as "hypocrites."

"In particular, I committed an act of disrespect in referring to His Honor as "Alan" and not addressing him properly as an elected Senator of the Republic.

"I committed a serious ethical breach in making the remark: 'They are hypocrites.' I am sorry that I was driven by my emotional state, as the Senate President and I viewed and listened while Ms. Karen Davila and Mr. Vic Lima were obviously aghast and scandalized at Sen. Cayetano's allegations, apparently believing them to be the whole truth about the disposition of the Senate's budget," she said.

Reyes on Wednesday tendered her "irrevocable" resignation which the Senate leader rejected. She said she considers her resignation proper because of the rightful indignation of the senator "and perhaps some of the senators."

"I had no right to speak ill of any Senator while I served in the Senate. To be sure, I never once thought of myself as their equal. I was also expected to do as I preached to the other staff members of the Senate - that we must accord all of the senators the respect due them, regardless of disagreements, personal, or otherwise, among our principals," she said.

"While I have practiced and kept this in mind all these years, last Monday, I was carried away by my emotions and for that, I sincerely apologize to Senator Alan Cayetano, to the rest of the senators, and the listening public whose sensibilities I had offended," she stressed.

In writing her apology, Reyes said she sought to disabuse public perception that she enjoys special privileges as Enrile's chief of staff. She said she never once harbored the thought of becoming equal with Enrile or any other senators for that matter.

"I am now being derisively called "the 25th Senator" - that used to be just a joke from some senators every time they would kindly offer me to take a seat in meetings and caucuses. I never harbored any illusion or delusion that I am or will ever be their equal. I have tried to serve all of them and accommodate their needs and requests to the best of my ability and within the authority given by the Senate President, and always in consultation with the Senate Secretariat officials," she said.

"I only go to the Senators' Lounge when and as needed by the Senate President, or when I am called by the other senators. I do not butt in when the senators are discussing in caucus, and I am not the only non-senator present at these caucuses. I speak only when I am asked to give information or my inputs, and always respectfully," she explained.

"If Senator Alan Cayetano or the other senators resent my presence at the lounge or at their caucuses, I am sorry for that as well," added Reyes.

Reyes pointed out, the Senate President, as he explained before, is suffering from both vision and hearing impairment. She said, she together with another legislative staff and his aide, assist him just to make things a bit easy for Enrile who is almost 89 years old with age-related macular degeneration and high blood pressure problems.

Most of the time, she said the senators themselves call her to go down when they see that the Senate President is not feeling well.

As to Cayetano's question why she is given sole authority to sign checks and other pertinent papers, Reyes said she and her Deputy Chief of staff, lawyer Carole Quirolgico, were authorized in writing by the Senate President to sign voluminous checks, payrolls and other administrative documents coming from the Secretariat on his behalf.

Reyes said this part is not an unusual practice even with the past Senate Presidents. "It is purely administrative, and I never signed any Senate check without first the signatures of the heads of the offices involved in the process of disbursement and without the signature of the Senate Secretary," she said.

"I and my Deputy Chief of Staff, were also the designated signatories of the Land Bank checking account of the "Office of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile." This is different from the Senate checks drawn against the Senate's Land Bank account. Hence, I was the one who signed the checks for P250,000 each which were ordered by the Senate President to be prepared and given to all the Senators," she said adding that this is also the same practice adopted by other senators who have chosen to designate their check signatories for their offices' accounts.