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Koko Pimentel steps down as Senate President

Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III stepped down Monday as the head of the chamber following the signing of a draft resolution by 15 senators seeking the reorganization of the Senate and electing Majority Leader Vicente Sotto as Senate President.

"I am together with my colleagues in the Senate majority in this reorganization," Pimentel said in a press conference.

"I announce that I will be the one to nominate Senator Tito Sotto III as the new Senate President today," he added.

Pimentel said he is grateful for the support of his colleagues as all of them played significant roles in the crafting and passage of landmark legislation.

“It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve the Senate as its President, a position once held by my father,” he said, adding during his term, he tried to emulate his father whom he said served the Senate with dignity.

“I served as Senate President inspired by the words of Justice JBL Reyes and guided by the principles and values of Senator Nene Pimentel. I step down knowing that I tried my best to do this,” he said.

He vowed to help the new leadership pass pro-people legislation consistent with the legislative agenda of the President as he wished Sotto the best.

Pimentel said since the cause of federalism needs help, he will go around the country — on his personal time — to explain to the people what it is all about and how the country will benefit from it.

He added as president of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), he will prepare the party for its participation in the 2019 elections.

Pimentel reiterated that he already expected the change in leadership.

“Matagal na namin itong pinag-usapan ni Senator Sotto na darating talaga ang time na siya na po ang magiging Senate President. To be fair to the new Senate President, I’ll give him sufficient time to also achieve something in the Senate in the passage of laws kasi kung February ‘yan next year wala nang time siya, October wala na ring halos time. So I think now is a good time,” he said.

He denied that he was betrayed by his colleagues at the majority bloc. “Hindi, wala. This is an example of a peaceful and willing transfer of power in the Senate.”

“Aware ako na may changes na. With resolution or no resolution aware na po ako diyan. Even when I was abroad, I was receiving calls,” Pimentel added.

Among those who signed the resolution were Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Grace Poe.

The resolution cited Section 16, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which mandates the Senate to elect its president through a majority vote of all its members.

“By a majority vote of all the senators, Senator Vicente C. Sotto III is hereby elected as the new Senate President to discharge the duties and powers granted to him by the Rules of the Senate,” it stated.

“Now therefore, be it resolved, as it hereby resolved by a majority vote of all the senators, to express its sense to re-organize its leadership and hereby electing Senator Vicente C. Sotto as the new Senate President,” it added.

Ejercito and Binay earlier said some members of the majority bloc think Pimentel was too nice and soft that he sometimes failed to protect the Senate from attacks.

“Mabait si SP Koko. ‘Yun ‘yung consensus ng marami. Sumobra ang bait ni SP Koko,” he said.

“Ang Senado minsan dapat maproteksyunan din ang institution. Siguro marami ang nasaktan, I have to be honest with you, when the Senate was under attack by the Speaker (Pantaleon Alvarez). Maraming nasaktan doon. Parang ang pakiramdam rin siguro ng marami dapat dinepensahan ang Senado as an institution,” he added.

Pimentel was referring to the statement of Alvarez that the Senate is the “mabagal na kapulungan” (slow chamber) for failing to approve measures already passed by the House of Representatives.

Binay expressed a similar sentiment.

“Parang naging consensus ng grupo na sana nga mas nagsalita siya (Pimentel) not to defend us personally but to defend the institution kasi nga being a co-equal branch. I think first time yata nangyari na ang tumitira sa Senado ay kumbaga kabahagi ng pamilya,” he said.

The two believe that with Sotto at the helm of the Senate, it would be more independent and tougher.

Binay admitted that the leadership change was one of the topics during a dinner at house of Zubiri for the latter’s post-birthday celebration early this month. 

Asked on the sentiment of his colleagues, Pimentel insisted that he has no ill-feelings toward them and for him Monday is just a normal day.

“It’s a normal feeling. Normal. We should always be open to change. Change can happen anytime. The only way to improve is if we are willing to embrace change,” he said.

He said now that he will no longer head the Senate, he can now focus on his legislative work.

“If you are a Senate President, you are busy with legislative work and Senate matters. This time, ngayong mare-relieve ka na sa Senate matters but you will still devote this time for legislative work so it’s the same,” he said.

“I will no longer concern myself with Senate matters like lack of parking space, the quality of foods being served in the canteen. Hindi ko na po concern ‘yun. I will now focus on the committees I will be given,” he added.

He said he has no preference on what committee to lead and he will let the new Senate leaders decide on it.

“I am not going to ask for anything. Sasabihin ko kay Senator Sotto na bahala na siya. I think we are flexible enough to handle any committee given to us,” he said.

Pimentel said he is happy that he was able to lead the Senate pass some of the legislative agenda of the President. —KG/KBK, GMA News