The race for the Senate presidency

July 6, 2010

Caroline J. Howard
July 6, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Edgardo J. Angara and the so-called “Magnificent 7,” his bloc in the Senate, have yet to choose whom to back for the Senate presidency.

The seven — Senators Angara, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lito Lapid, Gregorio Honasan, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III — say, the Senate cannot have a president who is too close to the incumbent president.

“We have not made up our mind,” Angara says in an interview with ANC’s Rundown on Monday night. “Whether we’re 6 or 2 or 4, that’s going to be a crucial number.”

Seen to be a deciding force in the choice for the next Senate president, Angara says their group is looking for key qualifications in a candidate, such as autonomy and openness to reform.

“That’s the outlook of every senator, that autonomy is uppermost. We’re looking for a leader who will defend and uphold that independence,” Angara says. “If we don’t move to change and we don’t have political will, we stagnate. And we don’t want to be an obstructionist.”

Liberal Party (LP) bet Francis Pangilinan and the Nacionalista Party’s Manny Villar are both in the running, each of them trying to muster the needed 13 votes to clinch the top Senate seat.

Angara says Senator Legarda seems inclined to support Villar, her running mate in the 2010 elections.

Angara adds Senator Sotto has committed to support the choice of his Senate bloc. Sotto and Honasan have also made a pact to vote as one.

Personal appeal

Pangilinan, who assures he will follow the rule on separation of powers and uphold the autonomy of the Senate over the executive, is counting on allies of President Aquino to back his bid.

Angara now says Pangilinan may have to make it a personal appeal to senators.

“I’m more concerned about the set-up where we’ve got a leader who’ll lead reform in the Senate. So I’ll suggest to Kiko, after we talk, I’ll talk to my group but better that you talk directly to every single one of them.”

Short of urging the ruling party to withdraw its own candidate, Angara calls on President Aquino to reach out to all political parties.

“President Noynoy must do a Lincoln,” Angara says, referring to the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. “The secret of Lincoln, that’s why he became very successful, he managed the Civil War and yet succeeded in unifying the nation, freeing slaves. When he won, he recruited his rivals.”

A third candidate?

Amid the race between Villar and Pangilinan comes another prospect, that of a third candidate for Senate president, possibly rising to break any stand-off.

Angara believes, in the event of a tight race between Villar and Pangilinan, there may just be room for re-elected Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to make his own bid for the top Senate seat.

“He never solicited support from any of us,” Angara says. “We don’t want a vacuum to occur, a vacuum could happen if two sides stuck to their guns and no one crosses over. That’s an occasion when a person of prominence like Enrile might emerge as a compromise. Then all bets are off.”

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