Between Tito Sotto and Cynthia Villar
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Don't be naive enough to believe that the Palace is neutral on the issue of Senate leadership. My little spy there whispered to me that Malacañan already gave its blessing to the lucky one. All those posturings made by senators are going to yield to the wishes of Manong Digong.

We recall that the clueless, innocent-looking and sincere-thinking gentleman from Sarangani and Gensan, Emmanuel Pacquiao, was holding a manifesto of support and was approaching the newly “crowned” and proclaimed topnotcher of the senatorial race, the billionaire from Las Piñas, Cynthia Villar. Senator Pacman was dispatched by Senator Panfilo Lacson to secure the signatures of enough members of the Senate to support the incumbent Tito Sotto as president of that august body of solons. Lacson launched a preemptive attack because the incoming upstarts supposedly led by the new senator from Tagaytay City, Francis Tolentino, is going to stage a coup and install Cynthia Villar as the new Senate president. They are, of course, doing it for vested interests and selfish purposes; they want to get plum committee posts.

Of course, Cynthia Villar, who got over 25 million votes in the last elections, was not in the mood to humble herself. Just like what she was always known for, Villar could not be manipulated into signing a piece of paper already signed by incumbent senators (and also by senators like Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Gringo Honasan who are all graduating) to advance the political agenda of the Sotto defenders. Villar, who has always been known as soft-spoken and kind, was heard in a reprimanding tone explaining why she would not dare to sign such a manifesto. She said she wants to first make sure that her partymates, Pia Cayetano and Imee Marcos will get their committees. And so, this is all politics. No principle is ever considered. Imee, in an interview with Karen Davila, earlier confirmed that Villar is running for Senate president.

The time-honored tradition followed by many parliaments all over the world called “equity of the incumbent” is the classic line of defense used by incumbents whenever neophytes and upstarts would have the temerity to demand entitlement to some juicy committee chairmanships. The current holders of important committees want to hold on to their posts. That is why they want Sotto to remain. But all elections are a numbers game. Whoever has the numbers will get the crown. Villar cannot win without Malacañan support. Between her and Tito Sotto, Manong Digong already tested Sotto in a number of administration bills. The Senate promptly approved it. Of course, Koko Pimentel is closer to Malacañan because Koko and the president both belong to the same party, and Sotto is NPC. But Sotto delivers faster than Koko.

Between Sotto and Villar, many Cebuanos prefer Sotto. He is the grandson of the great Don Vicente Sotto and Don Filemon Sotto. He is the only sitting senator with some links to Cebu. Villar is a complete and compleat businesswoman. These kinds of politicians are in government most presumably in order to protect their business interests. Their positions are in conflict of interest with their businesses. For instance, the Villars' real estate business comes in conflict with agriculture when rice fields are transformed into housing subdivisions. And yet, Villar always wants to chair the agriculture committee. Her son is public highways secretary. How would they avoid providing access roads to their housing projects?

At least Tito Sotto has no serious conflict of interests. Except if the time slot of Eat Bulaga falls during the Senate sessions and committee hearings. But schedules can easily be adjusted, of course. The conflicts between real estate and Senate powers are harder nuts to crack. But the palace already knows who will be the third most powerful official of the land.

CYNTHIA VILLAR PANFILO LACSON
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