July 4, 2010
Despite his close ties with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday vowed an “independent” Senate if ever he becomes head of the chamber in the 15th Congress.
“I assure our colleagues in the Senate and our people that while I firmly believe that the Senate ought to be supportive of President Noynoy’s anti-corruption and anti-poverty campaign, it will never be subservient to Malacañang,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Pangilinan is Aquino’s party-mate at the Liberal Party.
Five senators led by Edgardo Angara — dubbed as the Magnificent Five — on Saturday hinted that they are not likely to support a Senate president who can not uphold the independence of the 24-member chamber from Malacañang.
The other senators were Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lito Lapid, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
In his statement, Pangilinan assured that the Senate under his leadership would be one that is “supportive of but never subservient to” Malacañang.
“Aquino ties an asset”
He also said his closeness with Aquino “ought to be viewed as a plus and not a minus in our bid to win the senate presidency and our desire to push for genuine change for our nation.”
Pangilinan said his link to Aquino is limited to their vision of ending poverty and corruption. “If, as a people, we do not have a common vision, we will perish,” he said.
“While we campaigned hard for the President, we did so because we wanted to help end the decades-old problems of corruption and poverty plaguing our nation… This closeness therefore should be viewed as an asset and not a liability,” he added.
The senator noted his “track record of independence,” highlighting his victory in the 2007 elections as an independent candidate after ditching the camp of then president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In an interview on QTV’s Balitanghali, Angara denied that they were zeroing in on Pangilinan when they said that they would throw their support behind a Senate president who can work independently from Malacañang.
He, however, noted that a Senate president should not be tied down by his or her party affiliations.
“Pag ikaw ay leader na ng Senado, iba na. Ang pananaw mo ay protektahan ang institusyon at magiging secondary ang party affiliation mo (If you are the Senate president, things become different. Your vision is to protect the institution and party affiliation becomes secondary),” Angara, a veteran senator, said.
Apart from Pangilinan, who is LP’s bet for the Senate presidency, other contenders for the post are senators Juan Ponce Enrile and defeated presidential bet Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., Aquino’s closest rival during the campaign period.
As far as numbers are concerned, Pangilinan is ahead since party-mates senators Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III are expected to vote for him. Senators Francis Escudero, Sergio Osmeña III, and Jinggoy Estrada are also seen to throw their support behind him.
If Enrile, a former Senate president, will not gun for the position, he is not seen to vote for Villar. The two locked horns during the investigation on the alleged overpricing of C-5 road extension project, where Villar was implicated.
Senators Gringo Honasan and Vicente Sotto III are known supporters of Enrile, and are likely to vote for Pangilinan as well if Enrile decides not to join the race.
Meanwhile, Villar has the support of his fellow Nacionalista Party members, senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, and Joker Arroyo.
A candidate for Senate president needs 13 votes or more to win the post.
Angara declined to say who the “Magnificent 5″ will support once the 15th Congress opens its sessions later this month. He said the group has yet to talk to Enrile and Pangilinan.
“They all have a chance (to get our support) depending on the consensus of our group,” he said, adding that they are likely to come up with a decision on July 15.
Aquino’s victory in the recently concluded elections left the Senate with 21 members. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is detained, while Sen. Panfilo Lacson is in hiding after an arrest warrant was issued against him for a double murder case.
Aquino for Kiko
As this developed, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino is fully supportive pf Pangilinan’s bid for the Senate presidency, saying it will be advantageous for the new administration’s legislative agenda.
“It was a party decision, and President Aquino is a member of Liberal Party. So we will be backing and supporting Senator Pangilinan,” Lacierda said in an interview on government-run Radyo ng Bayan.
He added they are hoping another party-mate, Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, will clinch the House speakership.
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