Top Senate post still up for grabs
The brewing tension between veteran senators and their incoming colleagues has apparently escalated as Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday disclosed that he has drafted a manifesto of support for Senate President Vicente Sotto III, whose leadership of the upper chamber was allegedly being challenged by neophyte senators close to President Duterte.
A month before officially assuming their posts, Senators-elect Imee Marcos and Francis Tolentino were reportedly orchestrating moves to have Sotto replaced by Sen. Cynthia Villar in the 18th Congress.
Lacson, one of Sotto’s closest friends in the Senate, said he made a draft resolution urging his fellow senators to publicly declare their support for the Senate president, who previously said that fiddling with the current Senate leadership may only make the President a lame duck in the last half of his administration.
2 possible motives
“We see two possible motives of … Tolentino and Marcos. Either it’s mere posturing to get their preferred committee chairmanships or their serious desire to change the Senate president. Or it could also be both,” Lacson told the Inquirer in a text message.
He said he decided to come out with a resolution for them to determine who among his peers were really behind Sotto since many of them had already openly declared their unequivocal backing of the current Senate leadership.
“Judging from the expression of support coming from our colleagues, either through media or among ourselves, the overwhelming support is there, unless what we’re hearing is lip service. In any case, we will find out,” the senator added.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri reiterated that he was supportive of the status quo in the Senate, adding that Villar had told him that she was not interested in taking over the Senate presidency from Sotto.
Villar, wife of billionaire tycoon and former Senate President Manny Villar, earlier dismissed speculations that she was after Sotto’s seat after she topped the May 13 senatorial race.
Asked if he would join Lacson’s call, Zubiri said: “Yes, I will sign the manifesto [of support] for Sotto.”
Ready to step down
Sotto declined to comment on the supposed attempt to take him out of his post, but stressed that he was ready to step down anytime if majority of his colleagues would vote for a new Senate president.
“I have no problem with that,” Sotto said.
Lacson added: “The process is quite simple. All [Tolentino and Marcos] have to do is convince 11 more [senators] to join them and they automatically make their wish come true.”
Tolentino, who landed ninth among the 12 winning senatorial candidates after losing his first senatorial bid in 2016, was supposedly drooling over the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees, both currently chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said Tolentino, who served as Mr. Duterte’s political adviser after his stint as Metro Manila Development Authority chair during the previous Aquino administration, was interested in heading six committees.
Gordon already said he would not relinquish his chairmanship of the two committees and advised the incoming senators to respect the “equity of the incumbent” principle that puts premium in seniority in choosing major Senate committees.
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