Sotto: Senate won’t blindly follow Duterte
The Senate in the 18th Congress will approve the proposal for the return of the death penalty and other bills based on their own merits, not on orders of President Duterte, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Thursday.
Sotto defended the chamber’s independence as new members, most of them allies of the President, prepared to join the Senate in June.
According to Sotto, Duterte’s former aide Bong Go, former political adviser Francis Tolentino and former Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa would not be blind followers of Malacañang.
“What would Bong Go, Bato dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino do? Would they simply follow orders? I doubt it,” Sotto said at a news forum in the Senate.
As far as he knows Go, he would not keep silent if he disagrees with something the Palace wants him to do, he said.
“The way I know him, he would not blindly follow orders,” Sotto said.
Malacañang has assured the public that Go, Dela Rosa and Tolentino will not just follow the President’s wishes.
“It just so happened that they are close to the President. It doesn’t mean anything, that they will just be following him,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing on Thursday.
The three senatorial candidates were endorsed by the President.
Sotto also said the senators would make up their own minds on proposals being pushed by the President.
“I think what will be passed by the Senate would be based on its merits and not because it is being endorsed by the President,” he said.
In the case of the death penalty bill that Duterte supports, there is a possibility that this could be approved because some of the incoming senators are supporting it, Sotto said.
No Palace bill
But he said the measure could not be called a Palace bill because he himself filed it without any egging from Duterte.
Sotto’s version would re-impose the death penalty on big-time drug traffickers.
If there is a proposal to impose the same penalty on other crimes, support for the measure would wane, he said.
The Senate leader said the bill could be made a priority in the next Congress if Sen. Manny Pacquiao pushed for it, as it was one of his pet measures.
But this would not be a guarantee that it would pass, Sotto said.
As for the shift to a federal form of government, which is one of the President’s advocacies, Sotto said the Senate’s approval would depend on the merits of the proposal from the House of Representatives.
He said he also expected a very long debate on the matter, and he could not say that it would be easier to approve it in the next Congress.
Meanwhile, Sotto said he would leave it to the members of the majority if they wanted to retain him as Senate President.
He has not heard of any attempt to challenge his leadership, he said.
Sotto said he had also received a call from Pacquiao who urged him to ask for the support of Go, Dela Rosa and Tolentino in his bid to retain his post.
The three incoming senators have agreed, he added.
Sotto said that if he remained as Senate President, he would likely retain Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri as majority leader.
He would also consider either Sen. Ralph Recto or Sen. Panfilo Lacson for the chairmanship of the powerful finance committee, he said.
The panel, which is in charge of the budget bill, is chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda, who is ending her term in June.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.