There is no assurance in the administration coalition securing a stronghold on the leadership of the Senate when the 16th Congress opens in July, as neither of the two supposed frontrunners, Senators Franklin Drilon and Alan Peter Cayetano, is, at this time, already certain of mustering the needed numbers, or the required 13 votes from senators.
Cayetano’s own partymate in the Nacionalista Party (NP), reelected Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, has been vocal in supporting Drilon over Cayetano, while an incoming member noted the fact that even if the recently-concluded senatorial race was dominated by candidates from Team PNoy, the ranks of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) in the upper chamber would increase by only one, in the person of Senator-elect Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino as he’s the lone administration party candidate who won in the polls.
“There’s a possibility that there are 23 others who could be elected (as the new leader). The Senate President (Juan Ponce Enrile) has always said that he does not have the monopoly of the Senate. Anyone of us can be elected new Senate president, that’s a fact,” Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said.
Sotto stressed that there have been instances in the past where the elected Senate leaders did not come from the ranks of Palace allies even if there was an existing coalition led by the administration.
“It has always happened in the past Congresses. In 2010, that happened, also in 2007, in 2004, 2001 and even during our time in 1992.
“There are many variables and it will not come easy. The election of Senate (officers) is not the same as any ordinary elections. There are many factors to be considered,” he added.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III echoed Sotto’s assertions, saying that it will be “the new majority coalition that will decide who the Senate president will be, by consensus.”
Drilon, while careful in directly answering the issue of his reported vying for the Senate presidency, underscored the fact that the administration party is expecting its coalition partners to honor their commitment in supporting the programs of President Aquino.
“It’s important that the (incoming) leadership is supportive of President Aquino and his programs. The President would expect support for his programs in the Senate. The fact that the administration candidates won, 9-3, is a clear message of the people to the Senate in continuing the programs laid down by the President,” he said.
“The leadership of the Senate is always subject to an election. There’s no holdover. The present officials of the Senate would still be the same officials of the 15th Congress (due to the sine die adjournment in June). And when the 16th Congress comes, there will be an election (for the new set of officers),” Drilon explained.
But on the matter of him or Cayetano being chosen as the new Senate chief, Drilon said it will be decided upon by 13 of their colleagues and not just the two of them.
“There is no reward that is being talked about here (in getting the Senate presidency),” Drilon said, dismissing allegations that his name is being floated as the possible new Senate leader after serving as the campaign manager of Team PNoy senatorial ticket.
“That’s too much of an insult (rewarding him for being the campaign manager of Team Pnoy). I helped out so that there would be an administration majority because I believe that reforms are needed and that the President needs all the help in pushing his reforms that he started in 2010. That is the truth.
“I don’t want to be presumptuous; certainly, I will wait for the will of my colleagues. That would be the gift of 13 of our collegues and no one knows who they will favor until the opening of the 16th Congress,” he said, adding that “the 24 senators are all qualified to become a president of the Senate. It is not just Senator Drilon, Senator Cayetano. It’s all of us. We still don’t know who the 13 senators will favor at this time. Every senator is a force to contend with. Every one of them. There are no discussions on this,” he said in an interview with reporters at the Team PNoy headquarters in Makati City.
The ranks of the Nacionalista Party in the Senate were allies during the elections, Drilon said.
“I have not seen any reason they should split from the administration at this point. I expect the NPs to continue supporting the President’s agenda,” he said.
Drilon, this early, already has the full support of Trillanes because the former has competence, seniority and experience to lead the Senate.
Sotto, in a phone-patched interview with Senate reporters, denied the allegations raised by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that Enrile is supposedly plotting a “divide and rule” strategy to enable him to keep his post.
Santiago has been baring her fangs on Enrile, with whom she has been at odds since the Senate impeachment trial and has made no bones about wanting Enrile out, but painting him as a Senate president who wants to cling to his position, which is contrary to verifiable facts.
Even before the elections, Santiago had been claiming that Malacañang was ready to dump Enrile, while talking about a Senate coup.
Enrile and Cayetano are also at odds following an open verbal war in the Senate hall.
It was Santiago who had claimed over the weekend on the supposed emerging contention between Drilon and Cayetano on the top Senate post.
“No, she is wrong. That might be her opinion. In my opinion she is wrong because Enrile is not even in contact with the others, to keep him on as Senate president.
“What’s there to divide when he’s not even reaching out to our colleagues? He’s always been saying that it’s okay for him if we still want him as our leader but it’s also okay with him if there will be another elected senator for the seat. So where did that mentality come from? That’s just an opinion, which means just an opinion” he said.
“Yes, I’m sure there will be a lot of maneuvering and horse trading to get the Senate presidency. That will probably be them (Drilon and Cayetano) but as far as our group is concerned, there are no plans for manuevering and no horse trading,”” Sotto said, adding that in his last conversation with Enrile only a few days ago, the latter is already entertaining the possibility of not keeping his post.
It can only be expected that those eyeing the seat will not be limited to only Cayetano and Drilon as they have to consider the other members of the upper chamber also qualified for the position.
“There will be 24 senators and all 24 senators are capable of being Senate president,” Sotto said.
ENRILE DEFINITELY OUT — SANTIAGO
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile would definitely lose his post when the 16th Congress opens in July but the tussle for the top post would likely result in a crack in the alliance of President Aquino in the Senate as the successor to the post will be a toss-up between Senators Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) and Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said yesterday.
Santiago, however, noted the need first for the so-called intramural within the administration coalition to be ironed out to assure the coherence of the Palace allies in taking over the upper chamber leadership.
“If the battle for the Senate leadership boils down to Drilon and Cayetano, the coalition is expected to break up. That will provide the minority of Enrile a chance to exploit the rift. They might fan intrigues between the NP and the LP and even the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) to drive a wedge among coalition partners. The alliance will not last by the time Congress reopens. United we stand, divided we fall, that would be the case,” Santiago said.
It is not the position of the Senate president at stake, it is also possible that giving up the Senate leadership will mean juicy committee positions in exchange,” she said.
The so-called “controlling” party, obviously, would be the party of President Aquino, Santiago said.
“When you do a head count, the LP is not dominant but the reality in the Senate is that the Senators would prefer to be in good stead with the President and side with the ruling party in the coalition, which is the LP,” she said.
Yet, Santiago pointed out that the ranks of NP outnumber the actual LP members.
“But the NP is expected to be in good terms with the LP, which is the administration party,” she said.
While Senator-elect Cynthia Villar would be the most senior among NP members, Santiago said that Villar is known to be timid and may likely give way to Cayetano to contest the top Senate post.
“Cayetano and Drilon are the names alleged to be being floated as contenders for the top Senate post,” Santiago said.
“So Enrile is definitely out, particularly since the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) managed to put only three members in the current batch of new Senators. Maybe he thinks that he can cause intrigues between the LP and the NP or the other smaller party members in the coalition,” she said.
“Enrile now wants the opposition to attract support from other members of the coalition. In other words, I see his stratey as divide and rule but that will not happen since if you run under the administration coalition, you must abide by what the dominant party wanted,” she said.
Enrile’s bloc, Santiago insisted, would now take the position of the minority bloc, in all likelihood.
“The only chance the opposition has is to get the support of any of the parties that would break away from the coalition including the party of (Senator-elect Juan Edgardo) Sonny Angara which is the LDP (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino). That is the strategy of Enrile. He may issue a press release to the effect that he will be the president of the swing vote,” Santiago added.
“Swing vote, however, only happens if two groups cannot agree on a position and would need a third group to settle the difference. He can’t be the swing vote, he is the protagonist in this case,” Santiago said.
He wanted to be Senate President based on his being a swing vote which will have no effect on the age group of the new Senators, who are all young. Almost to every person, they are in their 40s, and he is 90 years old already and he still wanted to intervene,” she said.
“The results of the elections proved to be a victory for President Aquino, now he will have more confidence to assert his leadership. Secondly, Enrile will lose his ability to hold on as senate president,” she said.
Santiago added that Speaker (Feliciano) Sonny Belmonte will likely retain his post as a result of the tighter hold of the LP of the House just like its control now on the Senate,” she said.
Santiago said she’s not interested in the post of Enrile as she is likely to be called, before the end of the year, by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to dispense of her duties as one of its judges, a position she earned through elections in 2011.
“I am only an amused observer. As what the bible says, there’s nothing new under the sun. or the French saying: the more things change the more they stay the same,” she said.
Monday, 20 May 2013 08:00 Published in Nation
The recently-concluded mid-term elections, while most would view the results of the senatorial race as a vote of confidence on President Aquino, still proved that celebrity status and political dynasty prevailed, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said yesterday.
Based on the votes cast on the winning senators, majority of the voting populace chose their candidates not on their respective positions on various issues and problems confronting the country, the senator said.
“That’s why the solution to the problem is No. 1, voter education and No. 2, candidate education,” Santiago said.
“What I can say about this year’s elections is the same as that what the Bible says that there’s nothing new under the sun. In the American expression, it’s ‘same old, same old.’ Same old thing or same difference. In other words, there’s no real change. There’s no real change in the political mentality of our people, both for those voting and those being voted upon,” Santiago said in a radio interview over dzBB.
All six re-electionist members of the upper chamber were given a fresh six-year mandate while the remaining six are composed of one former and two graduating members of the House of Representatives while the three others are considered “neophytes” or first-timers in the field of legislature.
Senator-elect Cynthia Villar, a former congresswoman, is the wife of “graduating” Sen. Manny Villar while eight other winning senators are considered “second generation” politicians such as re-elected Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano; Senators-elect Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito Estrada, Nancy Binay and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV.
“Our electoral values are wrong, because we didn’t hail on the competence, honesty and efficiency. We only based on celebrity and dynasty. So how can they help in solving the problems of the country?
“The thing is, all the candidates say they are against corruption. The question there should be what have you done so far? Or what are the indications in your career that you wil fight corruption? They made promises in their campaign rallies regarding education, increased benefits, free education and healthcare, mass housing. But where will they source the funds for these programs? Candidates did not explain how they intend to carry out their promises,” she pointed out.
Santiago called on the newly-elected colleagues, especially those without known background in legislative work and duties, to seriously consider taking a crash course on public administration.
Santiago added that while one of the factors considered in the “accomplishments” of a lawmaker is the number of bills and resolutions filed, it’s not the end all or be all in gauging the achievements of a Congress member.
“The real yardstick for the success of a senator, his brilliance and his competence during the Senate debates. Well of course the priority should be given to those who have never had any legislative experience. Priority I mean on public opinion and public attention,” she said.
Santiago said her doors are always open to those who would want her to be their “tutor” as she herself sought out the assistance of experienced ones when she was still new in the Senate, in particular, the late Sen. Arturo Tolentino who was once a Senate president.
“I’m willing to share them my knowledge (in lawmaking), if they want to,” the senator said, emphasizing that she’s not trying to impose herself on them.
The feisty senator who is also known in engaging her colleagues in a spirited floor debates, is not about to give the neophyte-colleagues a baptism of fire of sort, saying that they should be accommodating to them and try to instill on them on how to be a statesman in and out of the plenary hall.
Santiago noted though that the likes of Senators-elect Grace Poe, Binay and Aquino should consider taking up a crash course on public administration because the characteristics of an ideal senator is honesty and competence.
“Honesty means he’s not a thief. Competence is different from being qualified. Competence means two things, having academic excellence, not just a (college) graduate but you graduated with honors from reputable universities not just here but abroad. Competence not just based on academic excellence but professional excellence as well,” Santiago said.
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