MANILA—Senate President Franklin Drilon ended on Wednesday weeks of speculations about his successor in the 17th Congress, saying at least 17 senators from two groups have agreed to make Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. as the next Senate President.
”The President of the incoming Senate will be Senator Aquilino Pimentel. I will be Senate President Pro-Tempore and Senator (Vicente) Sotto will be majority leader,” Drilon announced at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum.
Drilon said the agreement was reached between the Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) led by Sotto.
”These two groupings: we led the one group, while Senator Sotto led the other group. Between the two of us, we have the support of 16 or 17 senators. Last night, we met and had the agreement,” Drilon told the media.
Drilon, however, clarified there was no formal coalition between the LP and Sotto’s group.
”We have six LPs in the Senate out of 24, so we have other allies like Senator Risa Hontiveros with us. With us also is Senator (Juan Edgardo) Angara. There is no written coalition as in the House,” Drilon said.
Drilon said the agreement of the super majority to endorse Pimentel as the next Senate President is to show that the Senate is willing to support the legislative agenda of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
”We maintain the independence of the Senate but at the same time, we will support, in general, the legislative agenda of President Duterte. We recognize that they have the mandate of the people,” Drilon said.
Pimentel is the only senator of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) which is the national political party of Duterte.
”As you notice, Senator Koko Pimentel is the only PDP-Laban senator but yet, he will be the Senate President. This is an unusual… Certainly in the recent memory I do not recall of a similar setup,” Drilon said.
Drilon, vice chairman of the LP, said the assignment of the Senate committees will be discussed later.
Aside from Drilon, other LP senators include: Ralph Recto and Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ Aquino IV and incoming Senators Joel Villanueva, Leila de Lima and Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan.
The legislative priorities of the Duterte administration include shift to federalism, restoration of death penalty and amending the Juvenile Delinquency Act to raise the age of discernment.
On the shift to federalism, Drilon said it can be done only through a Constitutional Convention (ConCon) where the entire Constitution will be reviewed.
”I think we can see an emerging consensus in the Senate that we need to review our Constitution, amend the Constitution,” Drilon said.
On Duterte’s proposal to revive death penalty, Drilon said he is against the reimposition of death penalty, “but I am willing to listen.”