Pangilinan sees ties with Aquino as asset

July 5, 2010

Christine Avendaño, Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 5, 2010



MANILA, Philippines—So what if they’re that close?

Both the Palace and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan Sunday downplayed fears that giving him the Senate presidency would compromise the chamber’s independence considering the key role he played in President Benigno Aquino III’s campaign in the May elections.

Saying his closeness to Mr. Aquino should be considered an “asset and not a liability,” Pangilinan promised that the Senate, if placed under his leadership, would be “supportive” of the President’s drive against poverty and graft—but “never subservient.”

Pangilinan, who served as the campaign manager for the senatorial slate of Mr. Aquino’s Liberal Party, said he and the President had a “common vision for the country.”

This shared vision, he said, “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.”

“This closeness, therefore, should be viewed as an asset and not a liability,” he added.

On Friday, the Liberal Party announced that it was fielding Pangilinan in the race for the Senate presidency, for which he would need the vote of at least 13 senators when the 15th Congress opens on July 26.

In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report on Sunday, a senator said Pangilinan would have to overcome the perception that he was too close to the President.

The senator, who asked not to be named so as not to preempt the vote of his peers, said Pangilinan should assure his colleagues that he would not be beholden to Mr. Aquino.

Enhanced coordination

Malacañang also sees no problem with having a Senate President closely allied with Mr. Aquino, saying this relationship would, in fact, enhance the coordination between the Senate and the executive branch.

“It would be to the advantage of the Aquino administration if the Senate President is an ally,” the President’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in Filipino, adding that Pangilinan’s bid had Mr. Aquino’s support.

“It’s a party decision (to field Pangilinan),” he said. “President Aquino is a member of the Liberal Party. So the Liberal Party will be backing and supporting Senator Pangilinan in his bid for the presidency.”

For Pangilinan, his track record as an independent senator also “speaks for itself.”

“In 2007, (I) became the first incumbent senator to run and win as an independent candidate,” he recalled.

“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 anticorruption and antipoverty campaign, it will never be subservient to Malacañang. We will be supportive but will never be subservient,” the senator added.

7 in Angara bloc?

Also Sunday, Sen. Edgardo Angara, who heads a bloc which he claimed could deliver the swing vote in the Senate leadership race, said the candidates’ political affiliations would not really matter to the group as long as they would be able to “defend the dignity, integrity and independence of the Senate.”

And as history had shown, Angara said, many past Senate Presidents were able to “protect the autonomy and independence of the Senate.”

“Otherwise, the credibility of the Senate would be affected and it would … (be) viewed as a puppet of the government,” he said in an interview on radio dzBB.

Angara said his group would soon meet with Pangilinan to “know whether his qualifications would meet our criteria.”

On Sunday, Angara labeled the bloc the “Magnificent 5”—composed of himself, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Loren Legarda, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Lito Lapid.

But as of Sunday, Angara said, there were already seven in the group. He did not name the additional two senators, but in earlier interviews he counted Senators Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan as among those who would join the bloc in voting for a common candidate.

Hard work needed

In Bacolod City, Sen. Franklin Drilon said the Liberal Party must “work hard” particularly if Pangilinan would face Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party for the Senate presidency.

“It will be an interesting contest,” Drilon said in an interview at the inauguration of reelected Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia.

He noted that the Nacionalista Party already had seven members in the Senate, compared to the Liberal Party’s four. “They have a bigger base than ours. We have to work with others to form a majority block,” he added.

Drilon, earlier a Liberal Party contender for the Senate presidency, said he gave way to Pangilinan because “what is important is that we are able to help President Noynoy and the party in pushing our programs of government.”

“We have so many problems, we did not want the contest between me and Senator Pangilinan to come in the way of President Noy trying to organize his Cabinet and his addressing the pressing concerns of our people,” he said. With a report from Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas



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