By Angie M. Rosales | The Daily Tribune
Sen. Franklin Drilon’s presidency in the upper chamber is far from being a done deal, an administration coalition partner from the Nacionalista Party (NP) yesterday stated.
What has been announced on the configuration of the Senate leadership in the coming 16th Congress is not yet definite, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said, adding that everything is not as yet set in stone, including the upper chamber’s presidency.
Marcos, speaking to reporters at a news forum at the Senate, gave strong indications that it’s not yet in the bag, as far as Sen. Franklin Drilon is concerned on the matter of securing the third highest position in government.
The senator further emphasized that his party, the NP, contrary to the impression of many, has not made any commitment to President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP) in the Senate on the matter of key leadership positions.
“I don’t know that we can categorically state that,” Marcos said when asked on the NP already having agreed to have a common candidate on the Senate presidency.
“Everybody will be talking to everybody else. We will be talking to each candidates, to each other and every time there is discussion, something can change. So we cannot categorically say what is bound to happen; what is being thought of by way of leaderships in the Senate at this time. When we talk again with the other group, things can change,” he said.
“I think it’s too early to definitely say that it is one thing or the other that one group will go this way, the other one will go that way. You have to remember that we are only one house of Congress,” Marcos said.
“You cannot categorically say that the discussions are over. There is no longer the need to decide right away. In my view we still have to discuss a lot of things to be decided,” ” he added.
Marcos repeatedly said it’s still to early to discuss the issue of the Senate president at this point in time when the 16th Congress’ opening is still a month away.
The leadership issue is said to still be hanging, due to the assignments of committee chairmanships, which can at times make one group join another group, which, in the case of Drilon, would be a decrease in the number of votes for the Senate presidency.
The NP has, in the incoming Senate, some five seats, while the opposition, the United Nationalist Alliance, or UNA, has six, but will probably have another in the person of Sen. Bong Revilla.
Should the NP and UNA join forces due to differences between the coalition partners over the committee chairmanships, they could well end up in the majority.
It is no secret that the two NP senators, Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano are gunning for the Senate pro-tempore position and the Majority Floor leadership and it is unlikely that these two Senate leadership posts are going to be handed over to them without a fight from the NP senators, or if they do not get the committees that want.
UNA, however, is resigned to being the minority force in the Senate.
“We still have more than a month. This thing is not yet set in stone. We still don’t know what will happen on the 22nd. We are still undergoing a lot of discussions.There are negotiations, discussions at every level.
“At the party level, party to party and individual level, senators to senators. So, although Sen. Frank (Drilon) is, you could call him the frontrunner when it comes to the Senate presidency, you can call him the front runner but you know what everybody else is going to do, what UNA is going to do, what the LP is going to do, what the new minority is going to do or the group of (resigned) Senate President JPE (Juan Ponce Enrile) is going to do. All these things. It’s a moving target. So everyone is talking to each other. I’m sure they are trying to find accommodation so that as much as possible all the senators will be given committee chairmanships,” he said.
Marcos further signified that supposed positionings in the Senate leadership and even committee chairmanships are just apparently being preempted by issuing numerous “pronouncements” immediately after the proclamation of winning senatorial candidates.
“There are too many pronouncements that such and such are happening, from one group to the other, but I have been talking of course the president of our party, Sen. Manny (Manuel) Villar Jr., together with Senator-elect Cynthia (Villar), Sen. Alan (Peter Cayetano), Sen. (Antonio) Trillanes (IV). We in the NP (bloc) have been talking. So what will happen is not set in stone as I said. Many more things can happen. There is more than a month before the first session of the new Congress,” he said.
It was only sometime last week that Marcos managed to engage Villar into discussing the issue of the Senate presidency during a wedding event in which they were both attendees.
“We were at wedding, we had coffee. The two of us talked for two three hours precisely on that subject. What really happening, how is the situation coming along. What is the situation of the individual senators. And as I came away from the meeting, I cannot say that everything has been firmed up, or that it’s all over. There are still issues that have to be given attention.
“Well what has been announced is not, as I said, definitive. You already know that it boils down to the committee chairmanships, which is going to be key as to what committee chairmanship, what positions in their Senate leadership are going to be negotiated. None of it has been decided — pro tempore, majority leader, nothing yet. None of these has been decided,” he stressed.