Know the 25 Senate presidents of the Philippines

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

From Manuel L. Quezon of Baler to Chiz Escudero of Sorsogon, we have already had 25 great Filipinos who occupied the number three highest positions in government. The election of Senator Escudero, a 55-year-old UP-educated lawyer, and an NPC party man, marks a transition in the Senate, from relative independence to critical collaboration with the Palace.

The first Philippine Senate president was Manuel L. Quezon who was later elected as the second president of the country. He was the unquestioned kingpin of the Senate from August 29, 1916 up to November 15, 1935 or 19 years. Congress became unicameral in 1935 up to 1945. The second Senate president was Manuel Roxas from Capiz with a very brief term from July 9, 1945 to May 28, 1946. The third was the colorful Samar politician Jose Avelino, from May 28, 1946 to February 21, 1949. The famous Cebuano lawyer, Mariano Jesus Cuenco held that post from February 21, 1949 to December 30, 1951. The fifth was an Ilocano, Quintin Paredes, for less than two months, from March 5, 1952 to April 17, 1952.

The sixth Senate president was Camilo Osias, another Ilocano, who held the post from April 17 to 30, 1952 and again from April 17 to May 20, 1953. Eulogio Rodriguez of Rizal was Senate president from April 30, 1952 to April 17, 1953. He occupied that post again from April 30, 1953 to April 5, 1963. Eighth was Jose Zulueta of Iloilo from May 20 to November 30, 1953. Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was the ninth Senate president and held that post from April 5, 1963 to December 30, 1965 when he became president. The famous Arturo Tolentino was the tenth from January 17, 1966 to January 26, 1977. Eleventh was Gil Puyat from January 26, 1967 to September 23, 1972 when Marcos Sr. declared martial law and abolished Congress.

During martial law we did not have any Senate from September 1972 to 1987. When the 1987 Constitution took effect, the Senate was restored. The famous Jovito Salonga from Rizal was elected as the twelfth Senate president and held that post from July 27, 1987 to January 18, 1992. When he ran to succeed President Cory Aquino, he was replaced by Neptali Gonzales from Mandaluyong, who remained as such from January 18, 1992 and then again from August 29 to October 19, 1995. The fourteenth Senate president was Edgardo Angara, the father of incumbent Senator Sonny Angara, who held that position from January 18, 1993 to August 28, 1995. The fifteenth was Ernesto Maceda from October 10, 1995 to January 26, 1998.

The sixteenth Senate president and the second Cebuano to hold that post was Marcelo B. Fernan from July 27, 1998 to June 28, 1999. He was succeeded by the iconic former college drop-out who rose to prominence due to his brilliance and eloquence, Blas F. Ople from Hagonoy, Bulacan. He held that post from June 28, 1999 to July 12, 2000. He was replaced by his successor as DOLE secretary, Franklin Drilon, from July 12 to November 13, 2000, again from July 23, 2001 to July 24, 2006, and for the third time, from July 22, 2013 to July 30, 2016. The nineteenth Senate president was the great Aquilino Pimentel Jr., from November 13, 2000 to June 30, 2001. The twentieth senate president was Manuel Villar from July 24, 2006 to November 17, 2008.

Villar was followed by Juan Ponce Enrile from November 17, 2008 to June 6, 2013. Senator Jinggoy became acting Senate president from June 6, to July 22, 2013. Koko Pimentel, a Bar topnotcher like Roxas, Marcos Sr., and Salonga, became Senate president from July 25, 2016 to May 21, 2018. He was followed by Tito Sotto, from May 21, 2018 to June 30, 2022. Then came Migz Zubiri as the twenty-fourth Senate president from July 25, 2022 to May 30, 2024. I think the Senate presidency of Escudero will be directly affected by the results of the 2025 elections. A new Senate president may then be elected and it may not be him again.

Of the 25 who were elected Senate presidents, only three, Quezon, Roxas, and Marcos became president. Many have tried but failed, like Avelino, Tolentino, Salonga, Angara, Villar, and Nene Pimentel. They lost to their more moneyed and more influential opponents. In the Philippines, the best and the brightest can be beaten by actors, college drop-outs, and ex-convicts.

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