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Escudero bares ongoing exploratory talks on Senate presidency

May 18, 2010 10:11pm

Some senators are now holding exploratory talks on who they will field for the post of Senate President, Senator Francis Escudero said Tuesday.

He, however, refused to say who these senators are.

"Meron akong nakita sa restaurant kagabi, hindi ako kasama, sila ang nag-uusap. Exploratory lang daw," he said in a press conference at the Senate.

(I saw some of my colleagues in a restaurant last night [Monday night], they were talking about it. They said it was just exploratory talk.)

Escudero said those wanting to lead the Senate would have a hard time mustering the 13 votes needed to get elected — even the bloc of Senator Manuel Villar who has the most number of allies in the incoming 15th Congress.

"The only qualification of the next Senate President is that he or she should have 13 votes," he said.

This is despite the fact that the Senate would only have 21 warm bodies on the floor.

An expected vacancy will be created when incumbent Senator Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III is proclaimed as the next president.

Senator Panfilo Lacson remains in hiding after a Manila court issued a warrant for his arrest in February this year for his involvement in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case, although the Senate has not yet declared his post as vacant.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV remains detained and has no voting powers, unless a court allows him to attend the sessions.

"Sa batas, 13 ang kailangan dahil ang Senado, hindi tulad ng Kamara, nakafix ang number sa 24 ayon sa Konstitusyon at ang mayorya ay laging 13," Escudero said.

(Under the Constitution, the majority of the Senate is pegged at 13 because the number of senators is fixed at 24, unlike in the House.)

In the Lower House, half of the total number of representatives plus one is considered as majority.

Villar vs Drilon or Pangilinan

Among the expected allies of Villar are seven senators and senators-elect, namely, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, and Joker Arroyo.

Last Sunday, Santiago claimed in a radio interview that Villar could assume the Senate leadership again if he wants it, despite having been ousted as Senate President in 2008, because Villar's camp "has the numbers." (See: Villar likely to become Senate President again, says Miriam)

On the other side of the fence are five Liberal Party senators and senators-elect: Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Sergio Osmena III, Teofisto Guingona III, and Ralph Recto.

Pangilinan and Drilon are currently considered as the favored LP bets for the top Senate post. (See: Either Kiko or Drilon for LP's Senate president bet)

Seven other senators and senators-elect are yet to say who they will support for the Senate’s top post: Edgardo Angara, Ramon Revilla Jr., Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gregorio Honasan II, Escudero, Pro-Tempore Jose “Jinggoy" Estrada, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Escudero said that if Villar's bloc fails to muster 13 votes, they can still stop other blocs from doing so.

"Maaring hindi sila makabuo pero maaaring pigilan nila ang pagbuo ng mayorya. Halimbawa yung 21 lang ang senador na pwedeng bumoto, kung merong siyam ang bloke ni Sen. Villar, wala nang makakabuo dahil hanggang 12 na lang yung kabilang grupo magsama-sama man," he said.

(It’s possible [Villar’s camp] can’t form [a majority] but they can stop others from forming a majority. Since only 21 senators may vote, if Sen. Villar’s bloc has nine, no one else can form [a majority] since the other groups can only muster up to 12, even if they join forces.)

Possibility of term-sharing

The only solution to this is for senators to enter into a compromise by forming a coalition or agreeing on a term-sharing arrangement.

"Pero hindi ako sang-ayon sa term sharing kung saka-sakali dahil sila-sila lang naman ang nagkakasundo, at duda ako kung yung mga bumoto sa kanya e sumang-ayon at nakonsulta rin sa mga nagdaang term-sharing," Escudero said.

(But I don’t agree with term-sharing if ever, since they will merely agree among themselves, and I doubt if those who voted for him also agreed or were consulted with past term-sharing arrangements.)

In August 2001, then senators Franklin Drilon and Renato Cayetano entered into a term-sharing agreement to settle a similar deadlock.

Asked if Escudero has plans of seeking the Senate Presidency, the senator said he is not actively pursuing it.

"Sakit sa ulo yun. Uupo ka ng tatlong oras dun (sa upuan ng Senate President), ihi lang ang pahinga (That’s a big headache. You sit for three hours on the Senate President’s seat, and your only rest is a trip to the restroom)," he said.

He, however, added that every senator is qualified to be Senate President and should be ready to assume the responsibility.—JV, GMANews.TV
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