‘Villar has edge over Pangilinan’

July 7, 2010

Marvin Sy,Christina Mendez and Jose Rodel Clapano
The Philippine Star
July 7, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – Two senators have said that Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. now has the edge over Sen. Francis Pangilinan in their respective bids to secure the Senate presidency.

Senators Edgardo Angara and Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Villar’s advantage lies in his early lobbying for the position.

Santiago said that Villar started talking to his colleagues in the chamber to regain the Senate presidency immediately after the results of the elections came out last May.

In fact, she said a resolution expressing support for Villar’s bid has already been going around and that when she signed the document, there were already four signatures there.

Santiago said she recently talked to Villar to ask for updates on the resolution and according to him, he already has 13 votes, just enough to secure the much-coveted post.

“My impression is that Villar has it,” she said.

“I guess that Villar has the advantage because he was first to talk to our colleagues,” Angara said over the ABS-CBN News Channel the other night.

Angara claims to have six senators in his group that would vote as a bloc for the next Senate president.

He said Pangilinan and Villar are equal when it comes to the qualifications set by his group for the candidate.

Angara recalled that during his group’s talk with Villar, the former was very frank and told them that he was not going to be a confrontational head of the Senate.

“We’d like to help if we can but we don’t want also to be pushed because if you push then we will push back,” Angara quoted Villar as saying.

Pangilinan, who has yet to meet with the group of Angara, has already been faced with questions about his independence from the executive branch because he belongs to the Liberal Party of President Aquino.

Angara has clarified that Pangilinan’s party affiliation should not be a factor in his bid for the Senate presidency.

“The closeness or affinity is not necessarily a liability but not also an asset,” he said.

Drawing the battles lines

The race to the Senate presidency has now become a battle of propaganda, with the opposing camps both claiming to have the necessary numbers.

Pangilinan claimed that he has nine votes already and if Santiago is to be believed, Villar has 13.

Santiago admitted that the battle is not yet over as the two candidates would do all they can to get the support of their colleagues.

The efforts would include offering the chairmanship of committees, which provide power or fuel for the ambitions of some senators.

“The battle lines are clearly drawn,” she said.

With the prospect of Villar becoming Senate president again, Angara urged President Aquino to reach out to his rival in order to ensure a supportive Senate.

Villar and Aquino went at each other’s throats during the election, with both sides resorting to smear campaigns and personal attacks.

Angara said Mr. Aquino should follow the example of former United States President Abraham Lincoln who reached out to his rivals and became a very successful leader.

Kiko counts on Trillanes

As this developed, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s lawyer filed a petition before a Makati Court asking permission to allow the detained senator to attend the opening of the 15th Congress on July 26.

Trillanes’ chief of staff, lawyer Rey Robles, filed the petition on behalf of his client before Makati Regional Trial Court branch 148 Judge Oscar Pimentel, who has set a hearing on the issue this coming Friday.

The detained senator cited the need to attend the opening session to enable him to participate in the voting for the Senate presidency and be involved in the distribution of committee chairmanships.

Trillanes’ camp cited how the senator’s vote is critical in determining who the next Senate president would be.

Only 21 senators are expected to be physically present on July 26.

Trillanes is barred by the Supreme Court from attending Senate sessions, Sen. Panfilo Lacson remains in hiding because of the double murder charges filed against him, while President Aquino’s Senate seat was declared vacant after he was elected president.

Robles said their camp is optimistic that the Court will allow Trillanes, who is detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters at Camp Crame, to attend the first day of session of the 15th Congress.

Trillanes has not set foot in the Senate at the GSIS Building in Pasay City since his election in 2007.

In 2008, the High Court junked Trillanes’ appeal to allow him to attend and participate in the Senate’s regular session, saying he is a flight risk.

Pangilinan announced last week that he is also banking on Trillanes in his bid to bag the Senate presidency, the reason why he supported the latter’s petition.

Trillanes has not issued any statement regarding who he is supporting, but his lawyer said he is likely to support Pangilinan in a bid to align with the administration of President Aquino.

“I don’t know if he has given his commitment to anyone of them (contenders) but his position is that Sen. Aquino was elected overwhelmingly. He deserves the support of all elected officials… He’ll be consistent,” Robles told radio dz..

Trillanes has been in detention since 2003 when he, along with other junior military officers calling themselves the Magdalo group, led some 300 enlisted personnel in seizing the posh Oakwood Premier Hotel (now Ascott) in Makati to protest the alleged corruption in the government and the Armed Forces.

In November 2007 Trillanes and Scout Ranger regiment commander Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim led a handful of Magdalo soldiers and civilian supporters in what is now known as the Manila Peninsula Hotel standoff calling for Arroyo’s resignation.

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