MANILA, January 16, 2003 (STAR) By Efren Danao  - There was a vacancy so he made a bid for it.

After initial denials, opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara has admitted that he did try to oust Franklin Drilon as Senate president last Monday, saying that under a term-sharing agreement, Drilon was supposed to have been replaced anyway by ailing Sen. Renato Cayetano at the end of last year.

Angara, however, stressed that President Arroyo was not a party to the attempted takeover. Angara made the admission in an exclusive interview Tuesday night with Pia Hontiveros in the ANC public affairs program "Strictly Politics."

When Congress resumed session last Monday after its Christmas break, Angara had denied the coup reports, saying everything was just media hype.

Angara, president of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, said the minority conceived of wresting the Senate leadership because there was a "vacancy" in the top Senate post at yearend.

He pointed out that there was a term-sharing agreement between Drilon and Caye-tano, with Drilon’s tenure supposed to end last Dec. 31.

Cayetano, however, cannot take over as he is in the United States awaiting a liver transplant.

"We thought we’d make a bid for it and I think it’s legitimate because it’s vacant… so it’s just a question of whether we have the support or not," Angara explained.

He admitted, however, that the minority, which has 10 members, failed to muster the 13 votes needed to wrest the Senate presidency.

"We had the support of all the minority except one," he said, but refused to identify who was the exception.

Sen. John Osmeña said last Friday that he and his cousin, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, were against replacing Drilon. The two are members of the minority, although they maintain that they do not belong to the opposition.

Osmeña said he learned of the "coup" attempt last Jan. 1 when he was asked by Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta to attend a minority caucus at her residence. He said he told the minority members present that he would not support any coup attempt.

Angara said they decided against pushing through the coup bid because they did not have the needed 13 votes.

Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that it is but to be expected that the minority would always try to wrest the leadership "whenever the opportunity presents itself."

There were earlier rumors that Angara had cut a deal with the President to support Charter change and no election in 2004 in exchange for the Senate presidency.

Both Angara and Malacañang denied there was any such deal.

Angara said that in his two meetings with the President in Malacañang, "arranged by two mutual friends," they merely discussed support for priority measures and the establishment of a "unity government."

"We never discussed no election or Cha-cha, so charges aired by some of our colleagues in the Senate were false and unfair," Angara said.

Drilon said he was convinced that Malacañang never had a hand in the opposition plan to take control of the Senate.

He added that there never was a moment when his hold of the Senate reins seemed tenuous.

"They never got to talk to any of the administration senators. We remained intact throughout," he said.

He also said that he had never heard until yesterday that publicist Dante Ang was the one who offered Angara the Senate presidency.

He said it was impossible for Ang to make such commitment, saying senators would not blindly obey the bidding of Ang.

"I have never heard of Dante Ang approaching any administration senator to switch their support to Senator Angara," Drilon said.

Angara affirmed that no one in his group had ever solicited any administration support for the coup attempt.

Opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said that he was convinced that there was no deal between Angara and the President. He, however, lamented that Angara gave him a full briefing on the meeting with the President only "after the fact."

Angara said members of Laban were fully informed of all his moves and that they are supportive of him.

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