Aquino’s legislative agenda needs friendly Senate president, House speaker

July 5, 2010

Delon Porcalla
The Philippine Star
July 05, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – The legislative program of President Aquino would be better addressed if the Senate president and speaker of the House were his allies and friends, according to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

In an interview yesterday over government-owned radio dzRB, Lacierda said it has been the consensus among leaders and stalwarts of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) to field Sen. Francis Pangilinan for the Senate presidency.

“Of course it would be better if we pursue the Aquino government’s legislative agenda with both the Senate president and Speaker as a friend and an ally. In that way, our legislative priorities will be given their utmost importance,” he stressed.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, a former Senate president, has given way to his colleague Pangilinan in the Senate presidency race on July 26, before Mr. Aquino delivers his first State of the Nation Address before the joint session of Congress.

The most likely Speaker is Quezon City Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, another LP stalwart. He reportedly has the support of more than 170 lawmakers, out of the 270-man chamber.

Pangilinan’s most serious contender is Sen. Manny Villar, himself a former Senate president, who lost his presidential bid to Mr. Aquino in the May 10 presidential polls.

Villar, the richest among the senators, is trying to regain his seat after he was replaced in 2008.

Already, Pangilinan – campaign manager of LP during the campaign – said he already had nine senators supporting him. All he has to do is to muster four more votes from his colleagues to bag the Senate top post.

Prior to the LP’s announcement of their choice last week, Villar was supposedly the man to beat for the Senate presidency.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago even aired her belief that Villar already had the Senate’s top post in the bag based on her discussions with colleagues.

However, it appears that Villar only has six votes at this point, four of which belong to members of his Nacionalista Party (NP).

Villar has cornered the votes of his NP colleagues Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Santiago, who ran under the NP as its guest candidate, would presumably vote for Villar along with Sen. Joker Arroyo who has long been allied with Villar, bringing the number to six.

Pangilinan, on the other hand, has the backing of his LP colleagues Senators Drilon, Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona Jr.

He claimed to have five more senators backing his bid, including some “natural allies” of the President who is chairman of the LP.

He, however, declined to name the five senators but LP insiders revealed that they are Francis Escudero, Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña III, who ran as LP guest candidate in the last elections.

Pangilinan also admitted that he has been talking to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who is currently detained because of his involvement in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

He said consultations were already done before the LP came up with a candidate, and now that a choice has been made, he would start meeting with his colleagues in the Senate again to get their support.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, who claims to have six solid votes on his side, leads the bloc that could provide the necessary numbers for either Pangilinan or Villar to secure the Senate presidency.

Last week, Angara said his group of six has been talking to Villar, Pangilinan and Drilon on the issue of the Senate presidency and urged the LP to immediately decide whom it was going to field between its two members.

Angara said his group would vote as a bloc, which represents one-fourth of the membership of the Senate.

Aside from Angara, the group is composed of Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ramon Revilla Jr., Gringo Honasan, Manuel Lapid Jr. and Sotto.

Angara said Sen. Loren Legarda would have been part of their group but she has indicated that she would support Villar’s bid, which is expected considering that she was Villar’s running mate in the May 10 elections.

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