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Drilon elected Senate President

Sen. Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Franklin Drilon was voted Senate President, earning 17 votes at the opening session of the 16th Congress on Monday.

In his acceptance speech, Drilon said Senate is making history with the 16h Congress, adding that the number of senators below 50 would ensure that issues involving women and younger generation would be given  more focus and consideration.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, earned six votes from the minority bloc. Drilon was nominated by newly elected senators Sonny Angara and Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

"Senator Drilon is a lawmaker's lawmaker," Angara said, enumerating Drilon's accomplishments  as a government official.

Neophyte senators Nancy Binay and JV Ejercito Estrada, representing the minority, nominated Enrile.

While the two nominees voted for each other, Drilon gained votes from senators Angara, Poe, Bam Aquino, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Antonio Trillanes IV, Cynthia Villar, Teofisto Guingona, Lito Lapid, Ralph Recto, Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr., Bongbong Marcos, Koko Pimentel and Sergio Osmeña.

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Senators Binay, Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan and Vicente Sotto III voted for Enrile. Enrile is now the Senate Minority Floor Leader.

Accepting the post, Drilon vowed to make Land Use act and reforms of the  Sandiganbayan, Office of the Ombudsman and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as priority legislation.

He also urged fellow senators, whom he welcomed as "young," to be more responsive to the people's needs.

"Ang kailangan natin ay senadong nakikinig at tumutugon sa taumbayan," he said.

He also put forward the 16th Congress' legislative agenda, namely the rationalization of fiscal incentives and the mining fiscal regime, amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer or BOT law on government infrastructure projects, tax incentives monitoring and transparency and removal of some foreign investment restrictions.

Drilon also batted for inclusive growth amid economic accomplishments the past year, most notably the 7.8-percent surge in gross domestic product for the first quarter of the year and increasing confidence.

"The fact remains that as of April 2013, the unemployment rate is 7.5 percent, while underemployment is 19.2 percent. The agricultural sector employs more than a third of our labor force, yet agricultural workers are among the lowest paid. Thus, the non-inclusive growth," Drilon said.

He also expressed regret that the Senate has a negative reputation among constituents, who "think that the Senate is a debating club, which only serves the wealthy, educated and powerful class."

"Ang kailangan natin ngayon ay isang Senadong nakikinig at tumutugon sa pulso ng mga mamamayan, lalo na ng mga mahihirap at mga maralita," he said.
He urged fellow senators, whom he welcomed as "young," to contribute to floor debates.

"When I look at our new Senators, I see idealism etched all over their youthful faces. I encourage our young colleagues to bring in fresh ideas to the floor, and never hesitate to seek counsel from senior members," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Ralph Recto is elected Senate President Pro Tempore, while Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is the Senate Majority Floor Leader.

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