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Koko to seek Senate presidency

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - After leading the party that helped catapult Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is now seeking to wrest the Senate presidency from Franklin Drilon.

In aiming for the top Senate post, the president of PDP-Laban would also have to deal with Sen. Vicente Sotto III of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party.

The four-way fight for the Senate presidency emerges ahead of the opening of the 17th Congress under the administration of Duterte.

“I will aspire to be Senate president so that the agenda of the party and the president can be shepherded through the Senate,” he told reporters after signing an agreement with the NPC for a political alliance to support Duterte yesterday.

Pimentel needs at least 13 votes from the 24-member Senate, which is currently led by Drilon of the Liberal Party. Cayetano’s NP also has an alliance with PDP-Laban.

Sotto is claiming the support of 11 of his colleagues.

Pimentel, however, said he believes he can get enough support, including senators from the LP, saying he has “good memories” of the party and PDP-Laban having a solid partnership in the past.

“Let’s see what will happen,” he said, adding he foresees him and Cayetano having a friendly competition.

“In the end, we (Cayetano) will have to work together,” he said.

He rejected the idea of term-sharing of the Senate presidency.

Sotto, for his part, said he is being eyed by some of his colleagues as an alternative to Drilon or Pimentel.

“Let’s just say I am being considered by a large group as an alternative choice between Liberal Party and PDP,” he said.

Sotto said he sees no problem with pushing for legislative priorities of the incoming Duterte administration.

“Federalism is a constitutional issue. Senate can’t work on that except perhaps to agree to a con-con (constitutional convention),” he told The STAR.

“The death penalty can be passed whoever sits as SP,” he added.

Sought for further comment on the PDP-NPC coalition, Sotto maintained he has no problem with the new alliance, which has voiced support for the speakership bid of Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.

But Sotto said the senators should be consulted about the coalition.

“It’s okay as far as the House of Representatives is concerned, but we should be consulted first at the Senate,” Sotto said.

Sotto ran under NPC, which supported the presidential bid of Sen. Grace Poe and her runningmate, Sen. Francis Escudero.

As far as Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara is concerned, all four contenders for the top Senate post are qualified for the job.

“All are also qualified to be majority leader, minority leader or Senate president pro-tempore – the three other positions that comprise the officers of the Senate, since all are senior senators who command the respect of our colleagues,” he pointed out.

Right now, Angara noted no political party can claim to have sufficient numbers – or at least 13 votes – to win the Senate presidency.

“There is no single party with a sufficient number of senators to form a Senate majority in itself so right now, there is a lot of jockeying and negotiating going on among groups, parties and individuals,” he said.

“The first aspirant who is able to cobble together a coalition of 13 or more senators will win the top post in the chamber,” said Angara.

“If any of the above-mentioned aspirants fails to get 13 votes, then Senate President Drilon stays on, similar to then Senate President (Juan Ponce) Enrile in 2010,” the senator said.

Enrile remained at the helm of the Senate during the first regular session of the 15th Congress at the start of the term of President Aquino. He assumed the top post in 2008 during the time of former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Drilon was able to take over the post during the 16th Congress, from 2013 to the present.

He will still preside over the chamber when it convenes on Monday for its regular legislative session and as the National Board of Canvassers on Tuesday.

Congress will resume session on May 24 to June 10 before going into a sine die adjournment until the last week of July. – With Paolo Romero

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