Filtered By: Topstories

Senate under Duterte: Independent allies

A change in the country’s leadership has turned alliances in the Senate in a sort of topsy-turvy as majority of senators converge towards the sole partymate of President Rodrigo Duterte and agreed to make him their leader.

At least 19 senators have expressed readiness to elect Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III as the next Senate President in the start of the first session of the 17th Congress on July 25, Monday.

Pimentel is the president of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which fielded Duterte in the May presidential polls.

The new composition of incoming majority bloc in the Senate transcends political parties as those from the minority in 16th Congress decided to be part of the this Congress’ administration bloc.

Led by Senator Vicente Sotto III, who is expected to be elected as majority leader, Senators Nancy Binay, Gregorio Honasan II, and Joseph Victor Ejercito will now be part of the majority. Although Ejercito took time to decide as he initially supported the bid of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to become the next Senate President.

With them are neophyte Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Manny Pacquiao.

Senator Loren Legarda will remain a majority bloc member.

Sotto. Legarda, and Gatchalian are all members of Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) while Binay and Honasan are from United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). Ejercito is a member of Partido ng Masang Pilipino while Pacquiao, who ran under UNA, returned to PDP-Laban on Friday.

Also to be part of the majority are Senators Juan Edgardo Angara of Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and Joel Villanueva of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list.

This came after Senate President Franklin Drilon of Liberal Party had a talk with Sotto last month.

Giving way to Pimentel, Drilon will hold the second highest post in the Senate as President Pro Tempore, who is tasked to discharge the power and duties of the Senate President when absent, temporarily or absolutely incapacitated, resigned, removed, or died.

Sotto as majority leader is tasked to manage the legislative affairs of the chamber.

With Drilon in the majority bloc are fellow Liberal members, Senators Bam Aquino, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, and LP ally Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

However, Senator Ralph Recto, another LP member, has yet to decide whether he will remain in the majority or will be part of the minority.

Only Senators Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes IV have expressed readiness to be part of the minority bloc. Escudero is an independent while Trillanes, who issued scathing remarks against Duterte during the campaign period, is a member of the Nacionalista Party.

Recto, Escudero, and Trillanes were all part of the majority bloc in the 16th Congress.

Escudero’s running mate in the 2016 polls, Senator Grace Poe will also be in the majority together with Senator Panfilo Lacson. Both have no political parties.

Those who earlier supported Cayetano will also be part of the majority after he “agreed to work” with Pimentel.

These senators are independents Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri, both have no party affiliations, and Cynthia Villar of the Nacionalista Party.

24 republics

Drilon earlier admitted that the set-up was unusual because usually the senator with a bigger number of partymates or allies dominate the race to Senate presidency and Pimentel has no partymate in the chamber.

"This is to show that, 'Yes we are willing to support in general the legislative agenda of this administration,'” he explained.

He, however, clarified that being in the majority does not stop a senator from criticizing the administration.

He said that the Senate has always been known for taking independent positions.

“You have 24 republics in the Senate of the Philippines. So, you can imagine that there are 24 opinions in every issue. Difference of opinions between the senators and Malacañang are to be expected,” he earlier told reporters.

Pimentel, on the other hand, likened his would-be work as the next Senate President to an orchestra conductor.

“I think they found it logical that a partymate of the President should be allowed to be the orchestra conductor in the Senate. With their cooperation we can play wonderful music together,” he said. —ALG, GMA News