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Eleksyon 2013

Miriam: Senate presidency a toss-up between 4 admin bets

April 25, 2013 12:44pm

The race for the Senate presidency will probably be just among four senators allied with President Benigno Aquino III, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago predicted Thursday, adding the Senate in the 16th Congress is likely to be dominated by administration senators.

At the annual national convention of the Philippine Masons in Iloilo City, Santiago said the next likely Senate leader would be either Sen. Sergio Osmeña, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, or current senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar.

"On a numerical basis, it is highly probable that the next Senate president will come from the administration coalition, and will traditionally come from the oldest senators, namely Osmeña, Drilon, Villar, or Guingona," Santiago said

Drilon and Guingona are both members of the Liberal Party, where Aquino is the national chairman. Osmeña, meanwhile, is an independent while Villar, a former congresswoman and wife of former Senate President Manuel Villar, is from the Nacionalista Party. Both are allied with the administration.

Contacted by GMA News Online, Osmeña said he is not interested in the position.

"I did say four weeks ago that the new PNoy majority coalition in the Senate would elect one of their own Senate president. [But] I have no interest in the position," he said in a text message.

LP vice chairman Drilon, on the other hand, had actually been accused by the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of seeking the election of all administration bets so he can reclaim the Senate presidency.

Re-electionist Sen. Koko Pimentel, who is running under the LP-led coalition, had even introduced Drilon as the "future Senate president" during a sortie in Iloilo City.

Drilon, however, has denied this and said the Senate leadership will be decided by his fellow senators.

When the 16th Congress opens sessions in July, a new Senate president is expected to be elected. In January, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile offered to vacate his post, only to be retained by a vote of majority of his colleagues, including Drilon.

According to Senate rules, the officers of the Senate shall be elected by the majority vote of all its members.

16 admin senators

But Santiago said the administration will have an advantage since they will probably have 16 senators seated in the chamber after the May elections: Drilon, Guingona, Osmeña, Pimentel, Villar, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, Tito Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV.

On the other hand, she said that the opposition coalition will only have five senators: Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, and either Gregorio Honasan or Jack Enrile.  Sotto, however, had always earlier been identified with Enrile and Estrada.

The "independent" senators, meanwhile, will probably include Santiago, Bong Revilla Jr., and Lito Lapid.  Revilla and Lapid are from Lakas, while Santiago is from the People’s Reform Party.

INC's influence

Santiago, however, said this list of possible new senators may still change depending on who will be endorsed by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), which traditionally votes as a bloc.

The INC's bloc vote during elections is estimated at 5 to 8 million. The religious group supported Aquino's candidacy in 2010.

Santiago said that the INC ticket will be "geared" toward the punishment of certain re-electionist senators who may have “double-crossed” the INC.

"I further understand that INC, out of patriotism, took a strong position during a recent political controversy. Certain re-electionist senators reportedly promised to support the INC position, but out of opportunism, reneged on their promise when the hour came," she said.

"Therefore, I issue this strong note of caution: The campaign survey results might undergo radical changes, after the INC releases its official list. In other words, you don’t double-cross the INC and get away with it," she added.

But the senator refused to reveal any details about the issue, saying it might violate the privacy of the INC.

On the same note, Santiago said that the Catholic groups' campaign against lawmakers who voted in favor of the Reproductive Health Law is "merely an act of vengeance."

"It makes me squirm when I watch on television a cleric mouthing a political vocabulary. It makes my toes curl," the feisty lawmaker said.

Santiago, one of the sponsors and authors of the RH Law, is one of the critics of the so-called Catholic vote, which she said does not exist. Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News
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