MANILA, –- Senate president Franklin Drilon on Monday promised to work hard amid avalanche of issues and criticisms that somehow damaged the image of the Philippine Senate as an institution.
“The eyes of the people are upon us again as we open the second regular session of the 16th Congress. I view this day as our opportunity to recover the people’s faith in their Senate, regain their trust and revive their confidence,” Drilon said in his speech as the second regular session of the 16th Congress opened on Monday in Batasan, Quezon City.
Drilon admitted the task would be difficult, as he admitted that the barrage of criticism against the Senate may have succeeded in reducing the worth and the weight of the Senate in the minds and lives of the people.
“Though not within reach, I believe with hard work and perseverance we would in time walk past the difficult path ahead,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senate deputy minority leader Vicente Sotto III said the Senate minority bloc will remain not be a combative fiscalizer even without their two detained colleagues.
”It the same minority. We don’t need to be combative but we don’t’ need to be complacent. We need to be on our toes most of the time,” Sotto said in media interview after the Senate formally opened its second regular session.
Sotto said as deputy minority leader, he will automatically replace Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile who, along with minority member Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., is now detained at Camp Crame for plunder and graft charges.
The three senators have been accused of receiving kickbacks from the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) they released to the non-government organizations (NGOs) formed by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
The Sandiganbayan has already handed 90-day suspension orders to Enrile and Estrada while the third division has yet to decide on Ombudsman’s motion to suspend Revilla.
Sotto admitted that the absence of Enrile and Estrada will surely affect the minority block but promised to work hard as fiscalizer of the Senate.
”It will greatly affect us and that’s why we have to work double time,” Sotto said.
Sotto said the minority bloc held caucus meeting Monday morning but refused to reveal details of their first meeting without their stalwart colleagues.
He said neophyte minority senator Joseph Victor Ejercito has volunteered to deliver the Senate minority’ counter-SONA if Enrile declines to do so.
Other members of the Senate minority bloc include Senators Nancy Binay and Gregorio Honasan III.