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Opinion

The jungle called politics

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

The entire members of the outgoing 18th Congress quietly returned to their respective chambers as if they did not go through fiercely fought electoral battles among themselves and even against each other. The lawmakers came back from three months of recess that coincided with the 90-day campaign period for all those who ran in the just concluded May 9 national and local elections.

As a continuing body, twelve – or half of the Senate membership whose terms will end in 2025 yet – welcomed back their colleagues still fresh from re-election victories and sorry defeat to some of them. Defeated in his bid for the vice presidency, outgoing Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III banged the gavel to signal the resumption of their sessions. Sotto was VP runningmate of another “graduating” Sen. Panfilo Lacson as independent presidential candidate.

But Lacson and Sen.Manny Pacquiao lost their presidential bids to ex-Sen.Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Like Sotto, Sen.Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan lost the race to Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who emerged as the presumptive VP.

Re-electionists Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon and Sen.Leila de Lima lost horribly in their bids for a second term. Detained, De Lima struggled in her campaign while the opposition presidential standard-bearer Vice President Leni Robredo carried her in the Senate ticket. But for Gordon, his re-election got doomed from the vitriolic attacks by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign.

While he personally and strongly endorsed 16 senatorial candidates, President Duterte singled out Gordon at each and every campaign sorties he joined. Gordon suffered from presidential berating for his supposed railroading the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into the alleged shenanigans in the anti-COVID protective equipment procured by the Duterte administration.

Of the 12 newly proclaimed Senators, the four re-electionist Senators reported back for duty as incumbents. They are, namely: incumbent Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, and Risa Hontiveros. They battled against each other to be in the “magic 12” slots for the Senate of the 19th Congress.

Also proclaimed winners in their comeback bids at the Senate, ex-Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda, on the other hand, joined their colleagues at the Lower House.

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.

They will be joined later at the incoming 19th Congress by the following incumbent Senators: Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Ronald dela Rosa, Bong Go, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Grace Poe, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino, and Cynthia Villar.

But for now, all the six re-electionist lawmakers will serve until the 18th Congress adjourns sine die its third and last regular sessions on June 3.

At the Senate, they resumed their “hybrid” sessions, or a combination of physical presence and through online attendance. For their own safety and protection as well as their respective Senate staff, Sotto implemented the “hybrid” sessions following the outbreak here in our country of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020. Nonetheless, several Senators still contracted COVID-19 infection.

But this did not deter the 73-year old Sotto, in tandem with Zubiri, to physically attend each and every session day. This did not escape notice by Angara who paid tribute to Sotto as Senate chief for his leading by example. At my Kapihan sa Manila Bay last week, Angara cited Sotto’s leadership of the Upper Chamber as guide of the brewing “super majority” in electing the new Senate president of the incoming 19th Congress.

According to Angara, the reported aspirants to become the next Senate president must be able to approximate the leadership qualities of Sotto, foremost of which is being a “consensus-builder.” Angara believes he and his fellow Senators will, however, not become a “rubber-stamp” of legislative bills from Malacanang that would soon be headed by President-elect Marcos Jr.

With the so-called 24 “independent republics,” the successor of Sotto as the next Senate chief must try to wield the Upper Chamber as effective fiscalizers for the sake of our country’s democracy.

Conducting their “hybrid” sessions last Monday, Sotto and Zubiri led anew 14 other Senators at the Senate floor to pass upon pending bills at the 18th Congress. There was complete quorum even as six of their colleagues only virtually joined them via online. The six included senior Senators led by Senate pro tempore Ralph Recto, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, Pangilinan, Gordon, Gatchalian, and Go.

But before the present Congress winds down, a joint panel of Senators and members of the House of Representatives officially convened yesterday as the national canvassing body. Seven Senators were designated to this joint body that included Sen. Imee, the eldest sister of the presumptive President-elect. Zubiri headed the Senate panel, with his counterpart House majority leader Rep. Martin Romualdez, a first cousin of the presumptive President-elect, co-chairing the proceedings at the canvassing body.

Nonetheless, this did not stop even the losing camp of VP Robredo and her allies in Congress in crossing party lines yesterday. Thus, this facilitated the canvassing body to fulfill its constitutional mandate to officially proclaim possibly within today the “majority” victory of Marcos Jr.-Duterte-Carpio in the just concluded presidential and VP elections.

A jungle called politics is such a strange place. There is a symbiotic relationship thriving among the political animals. Like a typical natural jungle, its denizens of predators as well as its preys need each other in order to survive.

CONGRESS

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