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Senate leadership fight heats up

THE BATTLE for the Senate presidency in the 17th Congress is heating up with contenders to the top post intensifying their efforts to woo as many senators to their side.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday he had gotten the commitment of “more or less” 15 senators for his bid for the Senate leadership.

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On the other hand,  fellow contender Sen. Vicente Sotto III said he was in talks with 17 senators to form a new Senate majority that would include Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

Pimentel however insisted he was still very much in the running for the top Senate post, stressing that the race remained a four-way fight among Cayetano, Sotto, current Senate President Franklin Drilon and himself.

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Pimentel said he was in talks with all the senators himself.

“We are all friends. This is a friendly competition to win the hearts and minds of our colleagues,” he said.

Drilon, for his part, said he was willing to yield the Senate presidency on July 25 when the new Congress opens its session to “whoever has the signatures of 13 senators.”

Drilon, who was reelected senator in the May 9 polls, will remain as Senate president in the new Congress if the contenders to the post fail to get the votes of at least 13 senators.

Interviewed by reporters, Cayetano said that 15 senators, more or less, had signed a proposed resolution electing him Senate president in the new Congress, while others gave their commitment to support his bid as they still had to tell their political parties about their decision to support him.

“Until the final day you get elected, nothing is 100 percent,” he said.

“There is no overconfidence by anyone [of the contenders] and every one will try to get accommodations but we have to form a team that will deliver,” he added.

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Cayetano said the “reality” was that forming a majority involved jockeying for committee chairmanships. He said some of those who committed their support to him had been promised committee chairmanships but there were three committees that remained “contentious” because several senators wanted to head them.

This as Cayetano said he could stay as Senate president for more than a year if elected although he and President-elect Rodrigo Duterte had met over the weekend with the President-elect reiterating his desire for Cayetano to join his Cabinet after a year.

He said he told Duterte that many things could happen in a year—but he had no problem with a Cabinet post as he was committed to the success of the Duterte administration.

Meanwhile, Cayetano said the outgoing administration “still has its hands” on the Senate leadership in the new Congress. He claimed Malacañang had continued to make calls to senators apparently to keep the current Senate leadership.

But Drilon said  there was no such Palace move.

“I have no information on that and I deny that,” he said.

Sotto, who earlier revealed he had the “solid” support of nine senators, said he was in talks with 17 senators, including Pimentel, to form a new Senate majority.

Asked if he would yield his bid for the Senate presidency, Sotto replied in a text message: “It depends. We want to all agree first on principles and visions. Anticorruption, budget reforms, peace and order programs, environment,  etc.”

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Nation, news, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, Senate, Senate President
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