NEWSFLASH

DRILON ON SENATE COUP: NICE TRY

MANILA, January 11, 2003 (STAR) By Efren Danao and Sammy Santos  - Senate President Franklin Drilon will still be presiding over the chamber when Congress resumes session on Monday.

Drilon said never for a moment had he expressed fears that he would be ousted. "The so-called coup in the Senate on Monday is a non-event. There will be no such coup," he said.

He laughed off claims that the opposition had already secured 15 votes against him. "If that is so, then there must be 28 senators because I have at least 13 solid votes," Drilon said before getting the pledge of Sen. John Osmeña.

The 10-member Senate minority, instead of getting five more votes to wrest the chamber’s leadership, lost instead two votes, dooming any attempt to replace Drilon.

This came after Osmeña said he and his cousin, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, are against any change in the Senate leadership. The two are counted among the minority senators.

The other day, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. boasted that the minority had secured the support of five members of the majority, giving the oust-Drilon movement 15 votes. Top opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara was rumored to replace Drilon.

Pimentel clarified yesterday that he based his prediction on information given him by Angara last Wednesday.

"Any coup attempt against Senate President Drilon has no chance of succeeding. I am personally in favor of retaining Drilon. I said this even on June 3 when we revamped the committees," Osmeña said yesterday in a joint press conference with Drilon.

Osmeña admitted that plans to wrest the Senate leadership were cooked up in a meeting at the Makati City residence of Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta last week.

He said that Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III were already at Oreta’s place when he arrived. Angara was then still in Spain.

"I told them that even if they offer me the Senate presidency, I would not vote for myself because I am for Drilon," Osmeña said.

The other day, Sotto said that the minority would always try to wrest the Senate leadership "whenever the opportunity presents itself."

Osmeña said that his cousin Serge was offered the chairmanship of the Senate committee on finance but rejected it.

"He said he would not vote for a change in the Senate leadership. He would not vote for either Drilon or Angara if there is a motion to reorganize the chamber," he added.

He brushed aside claims that the coup attempt in the Senate is tied to moves to amend the Constitution. Angara, the chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, is pushing for Charter change. Drilon said this is not a priority and if ever it is done, it should not be through a constituent assembly.

"There is no link whatsoever between the two," Osmeña said. "I am for amending the Constitution to install a federal government, but I am also for Drilon."

Angara, however, denied that there was any coup attempt in the Senate.

"There is no such thing. That’s not true. It’s only in the media," he said in a chance interview while he was rushing to an appointment.


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