Drilon gives way to Pangilinan as LP bet for Senate President

July 3, 2010

Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 3, 2010

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and the Liberal Party (LP) have chosen to support Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan in his bid for Senate President.

LP President and former Sen. Mar Roxas yesterday made the announcement, saying this was the result of a month-long yet smooth consensus-building process within the party.

“There was a fundamental agreement between Senators Pangilinan and Franklin Drilon: Whoever is chosen by the party, the other one will not desert him. Walang iwanan,” Roxas said in a mixture of English and Filipino.

He added that LP Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto were part of the consensus-building process and had agreed to this principle.

And while Mr. Aquino had participated in the process, Roxas added that the President would respect the independence of the Senate and its process in choosing its leadership.

The LP decided to resolve the looming tug-of-war between Drilon and Pangilinan for the party’s endorsement early on to be able to court the support of the other senators.

The party claims that it now enjoys the support of nine senators out of the needed 13 votes.

Roxas later dodged questions from the media on his planned electoral protest for his failed vice presidential bid, saying he wanted to focus on the LP’s bid to win the Senate presidency.

But he said he had already asked his lawyers to collect pieces of evidence and that they would be ready to file a formal protest by next week.

Kiko’s activist Senate

Pangilinan, meanwhile, thanked the LP for trusting in his capabilities, and said: “We will not let the party and the President down.”

He also thanked Senator Drilon, whom he said was “as deserving as, if not even more deserving, than I am,” for graciously agreeing to his candidacy as Senate President.

Drilon had served as Senate President from 2000 to 2006. He had just been reelected to a fresh term. Pangilinan served as Majority Leader in 2004. He is on his second and last term in the Senate.

Pangilinan said he was looking forward to leading an “activist Senate” which would be proactive and creative in finding solutions for the country’s problems.

“This is in keeping with the overall agenda of President Aquino who wants to see change happen in the next six years of his administration,” he said.

Drilon’s statement

For his part, Drilon stressed: “More than the Senate presidency or any position, we, in the Liberal Party, believe in what is most important—to push and support the programs of President Aquino. Everything else becomes secondary.”

Pangilinan said the LP had the support of five other senators but refused to name them, saying talks were ongoing.

He and the LP would need to convince four more senators to support his bid.

According to the Constitution, a majority or 13 out of the 24 votes, is needed to win the Senate presidency.

Pangilinan admitted that the fight for the post was not yet over as he acknowledged that former Senate President Manny Villar, who lost the presidential race, would be a formidable foe.

Villar’s Nacionalista Party also has four senators: Villar, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

Estrada factor

Former Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said he would support Pangilinan for Senate president.

Asked to explain his choice, Estrada said: “First, I believe in his integrity. Second, I believe in his leadership qualities and, in fact, the legislative agenda of President Noynoy will be easily achieved if he becomes Senate President.”

Estrada, however, admitted that it remained to be seen if Pangilinan had enough political clout to muster 13 votes during the opening session of the 15th Congress on July 26.

Asked about possibilities, Estrada said that former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile could easily support Pangilinan’s bid, but that would only happen if Enrile would not reclaim his seat.

Estrada said Enrile’s close ally and friend, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, could also follow suit. He, however, refused to second-guess the vote of Sen. Vicente Sotto III.

Contacted by phone, Sotto said he and Honasan would support only one candidate, but have yet to make their decision.

Swing vote

The leader of the so-called “Magnificent 5,” veteran Sen. Edgardo Angara, was unavailable for comment yesterday, and so was the group’s spokesperson, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The other members of the group are Senators Loren Legarda, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Manuel Lapid.

Angara had said that his group had the numbers to dictate the outcome of the race.

“We’re one bloc,” Zubiri had told the Inquirer, stressing that they “will vote as one.”

“I’m sure the Liberal Party will field its own Senate President. I’m sure [it’s] Sen. Frank Drilon, if the former Senate President will make a go for it. Of course, Manny Villar will also try to make a go for it. We will know by July,” Zubiri had added.

Villar was Senate President from July 24, 2006 to Nov. 17, 2008. Legarda served as Senate Majority Leader in the 13th Congress.

 

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