MANILA, Philippines — Twelve newly-elected senators – a mix of neophytes, returning, and reelectionists – would be entering the Senate halls by June 30.
Their vows were to fulfill their campaign promises as they call on the people to band together following one of the country’s most polarizing elections in recent history.
All twelve winning senatorial bets were present at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. The senators-elect were joined by their families as commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) raised their hands, marking their win in the senatorial race official.
Fulfilling campaign promises, pushing advocacy
The first one proclaimed was returning senator Jinggoy Estrada who placed 12th in the elections after garnering over 15.1 million votes. He said he would fulfill his campaign promise of restoring lost jobs to Filipinos.
“Asahan ninyo, sa loob ng anim na taon, ang aking mga ipinangako sa taumbayan noong kampanya, lalong-lalo na ang pagbibigay ng trabaho ay maisasakatuparan,” Estrada said.
Estrada’s brother, returning senator JV Ejercito, pledged to give his all in the Senate.
“Sa pagbabalik ng ‘The Good One’ sa Senado, makakaasa kayo ng aking taos-pusong pagseserbisyo at tapat na paglilingkod,” said Ejercito, who ranked 10th in the so-called Magic 12 for obtaining 15,841,858 votes.
Senator Joel Villanueva, who currently chairs the Senate committee on labor, said he will focus on easing the unemployment rate in the country.
“5.8 percent pa rin ang ating unemployment rate… Ito ang ating tututukan… Importante na magtrabaho tayo, magkaisa tayo para isulong ang isang mas magandang Pilipinas,” reelectionist Villanueva said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who currently chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said he will continue to push for the strengthening of the education sector which he believes would lift Filipinos out of poverty.
Gatchalian placed fourth in the elections after receiving 20,602,655 votes.
“’Yun ang aking paniniwala na ang ating bansa ay tunay na makakalaya sa kahirapan kung patitibayin ang sektor ng edukasyon,” he said.
Neophyte senator Raffy Tulfo thanked those who voted for him, saying he will not let them down. He also thanked those who did not vote for him and vowed to “work hard” to prove himself to them and earn their trust.
“Sa ‘Wanted sa Radyo’ marami akong nagagawa. Kaya ko naman daw gawin kahit hindi ako maging government official ‘yung trabaho ng isang opisyal sa gobyerno which is magbigay ng tulong,” Tulfo said, referring to his radio program where people who have issues – from labor to relationships problems –could seek help.
“Palaging may nagsusumbong na mga naaapi, inaabuso, at pinagsasamantalahan. Sila ang isang dahilan kung bakit ako kailangang mapunta sa Senado para this time mabigyan sila ng hustisya,” he added.
Veteran lawmaker Loren Legarda would be returning to the Senate, too. She believed said she will also learn a lot from the neophyte senators who will bring fresh perspectives to the upper chamber. She reiterated her intention to push for her advocacy for the environment.
“Sisiguraduhin natin na magiging green, sustainable, and resilient recovery from the pandemic,” Legarda said.
“Sisikapin ko na ang ating pag-ahon mula sa krisis ng klima ay mabigyan ng pansin,” she added.
Another neophyte senator is action star Robin Padilla, who topped the senatorial race, with more than 26 million votes. During the proclamation of winning senatorial candidates, Padilla renewed his call to his soon-to-be Senate colleagues to consider reforming the 1987 Constitution.
“Ang tangi kong hiling ngayon, ‘yung 26 plus million na bumoto sa akin, naniniwala sila sa aking plataporma at ‘yun po ang reporma sa ating Saligang Batas. Hinihingi ko sa inyo mga kapatid ko sa Senado, ating bigyan ng pagkakataon ang reporma,” he said.
Several elected senators also called for unity among Filipinos following the elections.
Incumbent Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was given a fresh mandate as a senator, and neophyte legislator Mark Villar underscored the importance of having a united country to recover from the pandemic.
“Ang pakiusap ko sa ating mga kababayan, sana magkaisa na tayo. Tigil na natin ang bangayan. Let us work together, united as one country, as one nation,” Zubiri said.
“Tapos na ang eleksyon, nananawagan ako sa lahat na sana lahat tayo magkaisa at magsama-sama… para sa ating bansa. Kailangan natin ngayon dahil natamaan tayo ng pandemya. Now is the time for us to be unified,” said Villar, who will be joining his mother, Senator Cynthia Villar, in the Senate by June 30.
Echoing these unity calls was another returning senator, incumbent Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero.
“Isa ito sa pinakamainit na halalan… Ang aking hiling, sana mula sa araw na ito, magsimula na ang paghilom,” Escudero said.
“Anuman ang kulay na dinala sa nagdaang halalan, palitan na lang ng nag-iisang kulay… Sana mga kulay na lang na sumasagisag sa bandila,” he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, the sole member of the opposition to bag a Senate seat in the May 9 polls, said she is ready to work with the incumbent, returning, and re-elected senators as well as the newbies.
“Napakalaking karangalan na pinagkatiwalaan akong muli ng masang Pilipino… Looking back at everything we went through, I can’t help but think that it’s almost a miracle that I’m standing before you today,” Hontiveros said.
“Makikipagtulungan tayo sa mga dati at bagong makakasama sa Senado upang ipaglaban ang isang lipunang marangal at may pagkakapantay-pantay,” she added.
“But the truth is, I’m only able to mark this new journey because of the love and hard work of everyone around me… Makikipagtulungan tayo sa mga dati at bagong makakasama sa Senado upang ipaglaban ang isang lipunang marangal at may pagkakapantay-pantay,” she also said.
As for returning senator Alan Peter Cayetano, a “strong and independent Senate” is what the country needs at present.
Cayetano’s name was among those being floated as possibly the next Senate Minority Leader. He would be joining her sister, incumbent Senator Pia Cayetano in the incoming 19th Congress.
“A strong and independent Senate that will help Malacañang when it needs help, but will also correct when they have to be told that something is wrong, is what our country needs now,” Cayetano said.