Drilon starts acting like Senate leader
Although he has insisted the Senate presidency was “not in the bag,” Sen. Franklin Drilon has begun listing the “difficult items” the new batch of senators must prioritize before they become distracted by the 2016 elections.
These priority measures include amendments to the Charter of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to “suit” the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, changes in the government’s fiscal incentive program to protect it from abuse, and improvements to the mining law.
In a television interview, Drilon said the priority measures would have to be approved while the Liberal Party (LP)-led coalition forged with other political parties still existed, and before the senators got sidetracked by the 2016 presidential election.
Drilon also cited President Aquino’s earlier pronouncement rejecting Charter change (Cha-cha), as this would only take the lawmakers’ attention away from the more important tasks at hand, and give those with “selfish interests” a chance to alter the Constitution for personal gain.
Asked about the possibility of his succeeding incumbent Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Drilon said the post was “not in the bag, (although) it’s natural for people to speculate.”
Malacañang confirmed on Sunday that Drilon was the administration coalition’s candidate for Senate president in the 16th Congress, although there was no categorical confirmation from either Aquino or the senator.
“It is most logical (for people to think I would be Senate president) since (I) had an active role in the campaign,” said Drilon, who was the campaign manager of the Team PNoy senatorial ticket.
“I am willing to serve (but)… we have to talk to each senator (and) find out their preferences,” he added.
Drilon said he and outgoing Sen. Manuel Villar, who represented the Nacionalista Party (NP), agreed last week to back a common candidate for the post instead of fielding separate one. The NP, with six members, is the biggest Senate party bloc with three of its members endorsed and supported by Team PNoy.
“It would be an embarrassment and inconsistent if we split and go our separate ways,” he explained.
Drilon also talked about committee assignments in the 16th Congress, and said that he would prefer that each senator be given a chairmanship of the 35 regular committees and the 39 ad hoc or oversight committees.
But first, he said, the Senate leadership has to “figure out” the “capabilities” of each senator “and how well they would mesh with their constituencies in (a) particular field.”
As for the incoming Senate’s agenda, Drilon outlined three difficult items.
“One, we have to amend the Charter of the ARMM to conform with the (Bangsamoro) framework agreement. How the framework agreement will come up with the annexes, we still do not know. How easy, how tough it would be for the Senate to conform to the agreement, nobody knows,” he said.
“Number two, we have to fix our fiscal incentive program to make it more equitable and less subject to abuse. Some already call it a loophole,” Drilon said.
“Also, we have to work on the mining law and see what kind of resource sharing, a more equitable one, we can come up with,” the senator said.
Drilon said that while new laws may address “contentious proposals” such as land ownership by foreigners, leaving the Constitution open to changes could make it vulnerable to unscrupulous lawmakers who might use the opportunity to extend their term limits, or delete the limitation altogether.
Ironically, it was Drilon who drafted in late 2011 the proposal to amend the Charter by transforming Congress into a bicameral constituent assembly that would treat proposed amendments as resolutions to be approved separately by each chamber.
Originally posted: 5:00 pm | Monday, May 27th, 2013
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