MANILA, Philippines — In anticipation of Senator Franklin Drilon’s ascent to the Senate Presidency, a colleague has warned “holdover senators” who will find themselves in the minority under the new order to expect offers of “less important” assignments in the 16th Congress.
“The new minority members who are holdover senators, if they used to be with the majority, may have to settle for choice of less important committees,” Sen. Sergio Osmeña III told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a solicited text message on Sunday.
Among those likely to find themselves in the minority bloc are incumbent Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his close allies, Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, majority leader Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan.
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., titular head of the once powerful Lakas-CMD, is also listed in this group whenever headcounts are made.
Senate insiders are especially curious whether Revilla would be forced to relinquish the highly coveted public works committee, an assignment he “inherited” from his father, Sen. Ramon Sr. who held the post during his two terms that ran from 1992 to 2004.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer has been trying to get in touch with Revilla since Thursday but he has yet to reply to queries about whether he expects to retain his public works chairmanship.
Apart from the public works panel, the two other most desired committees are finance and accountability or blue ribbon that went to newbie Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona of the Liberal Party when the 15th Congress opened.
The choice of Guingona raised eyebrows then since he was newly elected and there were more senior members in the chamber.
Revilla’s committee was top of mind last week when Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, currently the minority leader, proposed that committee assignments be given “based on expertise.”
Drilon’s follow up statement — that assignments be distributed based on “strengths” — was further seen as an indication that this time, the new majority would be serious for once about overlooking patronage politics.
The Senate has 35 regular committees and 39 ad hoc or oversight committees.
By tradition, the bloc that composes the new majority assigns preferred committees to its members before giving away the dregs to minority senators.
As it is, senators foreseen to be joining either majority or minority blocs under a Drilon leadership already anticipate a major reshuffle of committee assignments.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had just won a second term, said he has been expecting “a major reshuffle because of the leadership change, the entry of new senators and the exit of retiring ones.”
Sen. Loren Legarda said changes “are inevitable. In my past two terms, changes in committee chairmanships and memberships occur upon opening of the new Congress.”
Osmeña agreed saying “there is always some movement of committee chairs especially (with)…five departing senators…vacating” theirs.
Enrile’s two allies, Honasan and Estrada, exhibited a wait-and-see attitude when asked for their opinion.
“All issues — the Senate Presidency, committee assignments, etc. will be resolved by the vote of the majority,” Honasan said in a solicited text statement.
Estrada, on the other hand, said their group has been simply waiting for the two-day session in June to pass before rolling up their sleeves to discuss the matter.
Sotto, however, reminded everyone that “no one has a monopoly or franchise of any committee post.”
He admitted, however, that the macho bloc “will most probably perform the role of the minority. And knowing JPE’s (Enrile’s initials) brand of leadership, we will perform!”
In a talk with reporters last week, Drilon said each senator could have at least one committee unless he refused to chair one as what outgoing Sen. Joker Arroyo preferred.
Up for grabs this early would be the committees that would be vacated by the four other outgoing senators — Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Villar, Francis Pangilinan and Edgardo Angara.
Lacson chairs the committee on accounts, and national defense; Villar, the committees on economic affairs, and trade and commerce; Pangilinan, the committees on agriculture, and social justice, welfare and rural development and Angara, the committees on education, and science and technology.
Villar’s wife, Senator-elect Cynthia Villar already expressed interest in the agriculture committee saying that chairing it would be consistent with her campaign on livelihood.
Senator-elect Nancy Binay asked about the tourism committee currently chaired by Sen. Lito Lapid. During a television interview, Binay said she graduated from the University of the Philippines with a tourism degree.