FOREGONE CONCLUSION

Senate presidency: Drilon hems and haws

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Sen. Franklin Drilon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Franklin Drilon won’t come right out and say it but his election as Senate President when the 16th Congress opens on Monday is a foregone conclusion.

Drilon would also neither confirm nor deny reports Sen. Ralph Recto would be the next Senate Pro Tempore.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, however, revealed that her colleague in the Nacionalista Party, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, had bagged the other Senate leadership position of Majority Floor Leader.

“I confirm that no one has expressed an interest in the Senate presidency from among my colleagues,” Drilon told reporters at the weekly news forum at the Senate.

“Nevertheless, I will wait until July 22 before making any formal announcement on the Senate presidency,” he added.

Asked about reports that Recto was a shoo-in for the second-highest post of Senate Pro Tempore, Drilon said: “It came out in the media, let it remain that way.”

“I would not want any news to be coming from myself because that will be preempting the election,” he said.

The senators on Monday will elect the Senate President, Senate Pro Tempore, Majority Floor Leader, Senate Secretary and Sergeant at Arms.

“So I would respectfully decline from answering questions on the election out of respect for my colleagues,” Drilon said.

Villar, however, said the NP had secured the position of majority leader for Cayetano.

The NP has the most number of seats in the Senate with five, one more than the seats of President Aquino’s LP party mates, including Drilon.

“I will be [chair of the committee on] agriculture, Trillanes [of national] defense and Alan [is] the majority leader,” Villar told reporters in an interview over lunch Thursday.

Villar said Sen. Pia Cayetano was expected to get the chairmanship of the committee on health, while Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was eyeing the local government committee.

Villar said the NP’s chairmanship of prime committees had been settled among other members of the majority. Discussions, however, continue on secondary chairmanships.

Drilon needs 13 votes to be elected Senate President. Observers believe he will have 18 on Monday morning.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile is expected to be nominated by the minority for the post of Senate President but only for the purpose of securing for him the post of minority leader.

The majority is expected to be made up of the Drilon, Recto, Teofisto Guingona III and Benigno Aquino IV of the Liberal Party; and Villar, Alan Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Marcos and Antonio Trillanes IV of the NP.

Also expected to support Drilon are President Aquino’s allies Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Aquilino Pimentel III, Sergio Osmeña III, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, neophytes Grace Poe and Juan Edgardo Angara, and members of the majority in the last Congress Ramon Revilla Jr. and Lito Lapid.

Six senators are expected to form the minority.  Aside from Enrile, they are the “macho bloc” Jinggoy Estrada, Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan, and newcomers JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay.

The Senate and House of Representatives will elect their new leaders on Monday before President Aquino delivers the annual State of the Nation Address to a joint session of Congress in the afternoon.

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