MANILA—Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile appears to have accepted being in the minority in the Senate when the new Congress convenes in July, the man expected to take his place said Friday.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, the apparent candidate for Senate president of the new majority, said Enrile has committed the United Nationalist Alliance to taking on the role of constructive opposition in the 16th Congress.
“We will not be obstructionist,” Drilon quoted Enrile as saying.
Drilon, President Aquino’s party mate in the Liberal Party and campaign manager of the Team PNoy senatorial slate in the last elections, added that Enrile did not object to his campaign to secure the support of Enrile’s allies in his bid to secure the Senate leadership.
“Senator Enrile expressed no objection to my seeking the support of senators presently identified with him or the so-called macho bloc so that we can all work together on measures that can improve the lives of our people,” Drilon said in a statement.
Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said Enrile already told him of the meeting with Drilon.
What Drilon said “was correct,” Estrada told the Inquirer in a telephone interview. “Senate President Enrile said that if he (Drilon) could convince senators, individual members of the UNA and the macho bloc, then it’s okay.”
Estrada said Drilon has not spoken with him yet. Even if he did, Estrada said, he has decided to stick it out with Enrile even if they move to the minority.
“I have already given my word to Senate President Enrile. If the Senate President will go down, I will go down with him,” Estrada said. “Besides, I have already been in the minority.”
Drilon was Senate president when Estrada started his first term during the Arroyo administration in 2004.
Enrile’s macho bloc is composed of Senate President pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and newly re-elected Sen. Gregorio Honasan. Another member of the bloc, Senate accounts committee chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson, will bow out of the Congress.
Enrile and Estrada are the members of the UNA in the macho bloc. Honasan, although he ran under the UNA banner in the last elections, is an independent. Sotto is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Drilon said he and Enrile met in a Makati City hotel on Thursday.
Drilon quoted Enrile as saying that he and his fellow UNA senators will actively engage the Liberal Party-led majority coalition in policy debates but will not get in the way of important legislation, such as on poverty alleviation and job creation.
Aside from Enrile and Estrada, there will be two more UNA senators when the Senate convenes in July. They are senators-elect JV Ejercito, former President Joseph Estrada’s son and Jinggoy Estrada’s brother, and Nancy Binay, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter.
Drilon last week secured the support of the Nacionalista Party, which will be the party with the most members in the Senate with five—re-elected senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, senator-elect Cynthia Villar and incumbents Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
“Senator Villar assured us that the NP will continue to support the President and his legislative agenda in the Senate and that there will be a common candidate of the coalition in the Senate,” Drilon said at a news forum.
“The people sent a clear message with this election: Let’s continue with what the President started three years ago,” Drilon added.
Drilon has said among the important measures to be tackled in the next Congress are the new law establishing the Bangsamoro autonomous set-up in the place of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the rationalization of government fiscal incentives program, and passage of a new mining law.
The administration’s senatorial ticket in the last elections was made up of President Aquino’s handpicked candidates from the LP, the NP, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, the PDP-Laban and the party-list Akbayan.
The coalition won nine of the 12 senatorial seats at stake in the elections, thus, securing for the administration a stronger majority in the chamber.