16th Congress opensBy Matikas Santos, Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and the House of Representatives opened separately on Monday to start the 16th Congress and ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III.
Elected and re-elected senators are set to take their oath of office to formally begin their term.
The new senators are Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Nancy Binay, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Cynthia Villar.
The re-elected senators are Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Aquilino Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Gregorio Honasan.
The Senate is also set to choose a new set of officers, including its president to succeed Juan Ponce Enrile.
Senator Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party has been reported to replace Enrile who is expected to assume the minority leader position.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Ralph Recto are being eyed for the majority leader and pro tempore posts.
At the House, its members will elect their Speaker, with incumbent Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. expected to retain the top post.
Belmonte said if chosen, he would again pick former majority leader Neptali Gonzales II as the head of the majority bloc in the 16th Congress.
Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and San Juan Representative Ronnie Zamora are vying for the leadership of the minority bloc.
And with the recent move of the Makabayan bloc to support Zamora, Gonzales said that the San Juan legislator has the upper hand.
“It gives him an advantage over his opponent. We mentioned this before, whoever gets the Makabayan will be the minority leader,” he said.
The Makabayan bloc is composed of five partylist groups and is represented by seven lawmakers in the 16th Congress.