Senators lobby for key positions
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Most of the 24 senators have started to lobby for key positions in preparation for the 17th Congress under incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.

The leadership of the Senate is still considered a four-way race among incumbent Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Senators Vicente Sotto III, Alan Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel III.

“We are the incumbent, and we will yield to the senator who is given the mantle of leadership by 13 senators,” Drilon said.

“As I said, we were elected by 18 million voters. If they find somebody to hold the post, we will yield the post,” he said.

Drilon vowed the Senate would generally support Duterte’s legislative agenda.

“We will support, in general, the legislative agenda of president-elect Duterte but we will remain an institution of democracy,” he said.

Drilon added he sees no senator jumping ship from one party to another.

Drilon made the statement while an unsigned manifesto was circulating showing support for Cayetano, the vice presidential candidate of Duterte who lost to Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.

Cayetano came to Davao City over the weekend reportedly in an effort to seek Duterte’s support for his Senate presidency bid.

Cayetano had a meeting with Duterte’s allies in Davao and brought the resolution supposedly electing him as Senate president.

Senator-elect Manny Pacquiao was among those who attended the meeting and signed the document in support of Cayetano.

“He’s (Duterte) human and would also want someone who would push hard for his legislative agenda. Two of us campaigned hard for him, Senator Pimentel and myself,” Cayetano said.

“Our only difference is I have a longer stint in the leadership, as minority leader and majority leader. I’ve been in Congress for 18 years. And also after one year, the mayor also wants me to join him (in the cabinet),” he added.

According to Cayetano, 15 senators have expressed their “individual commitments” to support the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration.

“I do not know if that’s only to one senator or to two, or one or two groups, but everyone is saying they want a 100 percent support to the Duterte administration,” he added.

“It’s just a matter of getting the consensus… There is consensus. There’s just a jockeying for position.”

Cayetano declined to elaborate on the race for Senate presidency, noting that Duterte has distanced himself from the issue.

“Let me say that officially, president Duterte has no candidate. We will never put him in a situation that he will have to state a preference that would affect the integrity of the Senate,” Cayetano said.

“But personally as the leader, as a human, he can have a choice and I do not want to put him in a situation wherein he has to choose between me and senator Koko (Pimentel). That’s why we’re also doing our talks with the different senators,” he added.

Cayetano said there are no discussions about possible power or term-sharing.

“But if president Duterte tells me I should join his cabinet after one year, I will not say no to him,” he said.

Sotto, on the other hand, ran under the Nationalist People’s Coalition and emerged as one of the top winners in the May 9 senatorial race.

Sotto earlier claimed he is being considered as a candidate for Senate president by a group of nine to 11 senators to go up against either Cayetano or Pimentel.

Sotto though clarified he was not aspiring for the Senate presidency, but was eyed by a group of senators as someone who could best represent “a genuine alternative” to the administration candidate because of his neutrality and ability to work with anyone.

Pimentel, meanwhile, enjoys the support of the new ruling party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

According to Ben Ranque, PDP-Laban deputy secretary general, the political parties that forged alliances with the new ruling party came up with a consensus to support Pimentel.

Ranque said Duterte, as chairman of PDP-Laban, has distanced himself from endorsing either Cayetano or Pimentel because he respects the affairs of a co-equal branch of government.

However, since Pimentel is president of the party, Ranque said they are expecting their political allies in the Senate to support him as the next Senate president. – With Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Perseus Echeminada

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