Tyranny of numbers

After officially proclaimed as winners in the so-called “Magic 12” in the last May 9 elections, the new set of Senators will join the other dozen of the Senate in the incoming 19th Congress. However, the official tenure of the 12 newly proclaimed Senate winners will start at noon exactly of June 30 this year.

This coincides with of the life of the 18th Congress that expires on June 30. Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, along with all the members of the 18th Congress, will bow out of office on the same day.

It is only then the 12 newly proclaimed Senators can – technically – take their respective oaths of office and join the other 12 sitting Senate members who still have three years remaining of their six-year term. This is the principle behind the 12-man sitting Senators as a continuing body of the country’s Legislative Branch of government.

Of the 12 newly proclaimed Senators, the four re-electionist Senators will report back for duty as sitting Senators when the outgoing 18th Congress resumes sessions next Monday, May 23. The four re-electionist Senate winners are, namely: incumbent Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, and Risa Hontiveros.

After being proclaimed winners in their comeback bids at the Senate, ex-Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Antique Congresswoman Senators Loren Legarda are also reporting back to their respective congressional duties. All six re-electionist lawmakers will serve until the 18th Congress adjourns sine die its third and last regular sessions on June 3.

But before the 18th Congress winds down, a joint panel of Senators and members of the House of Representatives will convene as the national canvassing body. They will start the congressional canvass on May 24 until they proclaim the official winners in the just concluded presidential and vice presidential (VP) elections.

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The rest of the newly proclaimed Senate-elect included other returning Senators, namely, incumbent Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, and JV Ejercito. The only former Duterte Cabinet member who won in the Senate race, ex-Public Works Secretary Mark Villar; broadcaster Raffy Tulfo, and, actor Robin Padilla complete the new set of Senators.

Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara were among the first to welcome the proclamation of the 12 Senate-elect colleagues. Pimentel and Angara were our featured guests in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday morning, or a few hours before the official proclamation of the Senate election winners.

Looking ahead, Pimentel hinted his predisposition to align himself with the new minority bloc in the 19th Congress if only to keep the “structural independence” of the Senate. Sen.Hontiveros was the lone opposition who got re-elected.

Actually, the ranks of Pimentel’s PDP-Laban grew with the addition of Senator-elect Padilla. The other sitting PDP-Laban members are, namely, Senators Bong Go, Ronald dela Rosa, and Francis Tolentino.

However, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruled against Pimentel’s original PDP-Laban. Pimentel disclosed his leadership at the PDP-Laban already filed a motion for reconsideration to the same Comelec division. And if denied again, he vows to take the case before the entire seven-man poll body and “all the way to the Supreme Court.”

For now, Pimentel called upon his fellow Senators not to be “dismissive” on objections and observations that would be raised during the deliberations of the congressional canvassing body. Having once sat as part of the national canvassing body for the May, 2016 presidential elections, Pimentel recalled his own experience when former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte won by overwhelming majority votes over his next nearest rival. Despite very large margin of votes of Mayor Duterte, Pimentel cited, they entertained each and every objections and observations raised by the election lawyers of former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II.

Although UniTeam of presumptive President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and VP-elect Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio both won by huge margin of votes over their respective rivals, Pimentel underscored the need for congressional canvassing body to ferret out defects of the automated election system. “My appeal and advice is to…listen to them if they have substance but they should also not hold up the proceedings. Let’s not be dismissive,” Pimentel urged.

Angara agreed with the stand of Sen. Pimentel that the Upper Chamber will never become a “rubberstamp” of Malacañang whether or not the sitting President has a very strong mandate, or has a plurality vote. Under the leadership of outgoing Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Angara cited the performance of the outgoing 18th Congress.

Sotto who run but unfortunately lost the VP race, actually first served as Senate president in the second half of the 17th Congress under a “term-sharing” agreement with Pimentel as the Senate chief during the first half.

Angara asserted the 18th Congress is “a good model for the upcoming 19th Congress in terms of work ethic, leadership, productivity,” especially in the Upper Chamber with Sotto as Senate president. He noted with optimism the composition of the incoming Senate would still be able to maintain the same degree of independence for the next six years under the administration of President-elect Marcos Jr.

As the so-called “independent republics,” all 24 Senators will comprise the 19th Congress that opens its first regular sessions starting July 25.

For now, both Pimentel and Angara are keeping their options open on the brewing tight race to become the next Senate president. The next Senate president must be able to get at least 13 Senators – including the aspirant – to wrest the leadership in the Upper Chamber.

As the more senior members of the Senate, Pimentel and Angara have learned to live with the “tyranny of the numbers” that always settle the votes on legislative bills, as well as any leadership contests in Congress.

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