Kiko ready to face Villar in bid to become next Senate President

June 19, 2010

Christina Mendez
Philippine Star
June 19, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francis Pangilinan expressed confidence yesterday that he can get the support of a majority of senators and beat Sen. Manuel Villar to become the next Senate president.

Liberal Party (LP) members Pangilinan and senator-elect Franklin Drilon are both seeking the Senate presidency but the LP has not yet decided on who will be the party’s bet for the post.

Pangilinan told dwIZ that he could get the vote of a majority of his colleagues even though there are only four LP members in the Senate. Aside from Pangilinan and Drilon, senators-elect Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III are also LP members.

Villar, the defeated Nacionalista Party presidential candidate, will return to the Senate to serve the remainder of his term and is expected to run for the Senate presidency once the 15th Congress opens next month.

Villar and Pangilinan were members of the so-called Wednesday Group at the Senate, a former power bloc that also included Senators Joker Arroyo, Recto, and then senator and now Vice President Noli de Castro. Re-elected Sen. Lito Lapid is counted as an adopted member of the group.

The relationship among members of the group apparently soured in the run-up to the May 10 elections after Pangilinan and Recto dropped Villar and supported president-elect Benigno Aquino III.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had revealed that Villar was interested in regaining the Senate presidency.

Villar enjoys the support of Senators Santiago, Arroyo, Alan Cayetano and his sister Pia, and senator-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Villar is also expecting the support of Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Lapid, Edgardo Angara, and Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Senate President Pro-tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, and senator-elect Vicente Sotto III declared they want to be “independent.” Pangilinan should reach out to other senators, even those from other parties, to be elected Senate President.

During his meetings with fellow senators, Pangilinan said they shared the belief that they recognized that president-elect Aquino won by a landslide and that they would want to support his programs.

Pangilinan said he had reached out to many of his colleagues in the past three weeks in his bid for the Senate presidency.

“I believe I have the chance to clinch the support of 13 of our colleagues at the Senate. We need 13 (votes). In the past three weeks we have been meeting with some of our colleagues, and we have consulted them,” Pangilinan said.

He said the common agenda among him and his “supporters” is to help the president-elect, to support his legislative agenda and programs and fulfill his campaign promises to fight corruption and poverty.

“That’s what we saw, that’s why I am confident and very optimistic that because of the massive support for president-elect Aquino, we can get the trust and confidence of at least 13 of our colleagues,” Pangilinan added.

Pangilinan refused to comment on reports that presidential sister Kris Aquino-Yap had been approaching senators to support his bid for the top Senate post.

“It is better if Kris is asked about what has been published in the newspapers. I don’t want to preempt her,” said Pangilinan, whose wife, popular actress Sharon Cuneta, had also supported Senator Aquino’s campaign.

Kris’ reported support for Pangilinan came after Aquino himself had declared that he is leaving it up to the LP to decide who would be the party’s bet for the top Senate post.

Pangilinan said the Aquino family has recognized that the matter of the Senate presidency is an “internal matter to the Senate,” and that they will recognize the decision of the LP regarding this.

Pangilinan said other senators, including Sergio Osmeña and Francis Escudero who have helped in the campaign of Aquino, are also being consulted.

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