[PAKIPOT: Drilon playing coy]

MANILA, MAY 27, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Michael Lim Ubac - The Senate presidency was on everyone’s mind in Malacañang on Wednesday when Sen. Franklin Drilon met with President Aquino.

But the Palace played coy about Drilon being the presumptive Senate President.

It was the first official meeting between the President and Drilon, who served as campaign manager of Team PNoy in the just-concluded senatorial elections.

The meeting, held at the President’s office, preceded Team PNoy’s thanksgiving party, set to start at 7 p.m., at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.

A Palace spokesperson could not confirm if the two leaders of the ruling Liberal Party would be talking about party matters, particularly on reports that Drilon would be the next leader of the Senate, when the 16th Congress opens in July.

Aquino’s ‘point man’

An administration source, however, confirmed that Drilon was the President’s choice for the top Senate post.

“It’s expected. You don’t need me to confirm or deny everything,” said an administration source, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

“Apart from being the point man of the President in any legislative battle, Senator Drilon was also the point guard in what was a very important political exercise for the President,” said the source, referring to the May polls.

Key legislation

The administration source noted that Drilon helped deliver the vote for key legislation of the administration—the sin tax increase, reproductive health law, postponement of the 2011 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao—and the successful impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“In all these, Drilon was the President’s point man.

And in the recent campaign, out of 96 scheduled sortie events (of Team PNoy), the President was present in about half, and his main campaign manager for something so important for him was Senator Drilon,” the source said.

Asked if the President would support Drilon’s bid to again lead the Senate, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “We didn’t talk about that (on Tuesday) … and the President has said that senators should be allowed to choose (the next Senate President.)”

Drilon was the Senate President in 2000 (11th Congress), from 2001-2004 (12th Congress) and again, from 2004-2006 (13th Congress).

In an ambush interview with reporters in Cavite City on Tuesday, Aquino distanced himself from the reorganization of the Senate leadership.

He said the senators should be given a free hand in the election of the next Senate President. “They might say that I am interfering with (the workings) of an independent coequal branch. Let’s just wait for their declaration,” Aquino said.

Asked about the agenda of Wednesday’s meeting, Valte said: “I don’t know. I’m not aware of the agenda. No, we have a 1 p.m. (meeting on Wednesday) with the President. There are several items on the agenda. I’m not quite sure about the 2:30 (meeting between the President and Drilon).”

13 votes needed

Drilon—or any contender for the Senate presidency—needs 13 votes to wrest the post from Juan Ponce Enrile, whose son, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, lost in the Senate race.

The senior Enrile has three more years in office.

Sen. Alan Cayetano said he was not casting a moist eye on the Senate presidency despite pronouncements made by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that he was one of the two top contenders for the post.

Drilon, a senior member of the Liberal Party (LP), is the other.

“The question is (am I) actively pursuing it? I’m not actively pursuing it,” Cayetano said about plans for the Senate presidency.

“But if the majority says ‘I want Alan,’ anybody would be a hypocrite to say he doesn’t want it,” he added in a huddle with reporters.

Santiago said Cayetano was the most likely candidate to be fielded by the Nacionalista Party that would have the biggest number of senators in the 16th Congress.

Santiago said the Senate presidency would be Drilon’s “reward” as Team PNoy won nine of the 12 seats in the last elections. Drilon has been playing coy whenever he’s asked whether he is interested in the post.


PNoy begins pitch for 'Big Man' Frank By Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Talks are underway for the selection of the next Senate president, and President Aquino is obviously pitching for the “Big Man,” Sen. Franklin Drilon, to lead the chamber in the 16th Congress.

Aquino has openly expressed admiration for Drilon, Team PNoy campaign manager and architect of the administration slate’s win in the last elections.

Drilon confirmed yesterday that he met with Nacionalista Party (NP) president Manuel Villar Jr. to discuss the leadership of the Senate and the distribution of committees in the 16th Congress.

“We have so much admiration for the Big Man. He never complains, always stays calm and never disturbs anybody for no reason. If we were able to take care of the country well, that is because we have a very brilliant campaign manager in Frank Drilon,” Aquino said during the thanksgiving party of Team PNoy on Wednesday night in San Juan.

Drilon, vice chairman of the Liberal Party (LP), said he and Villar agreed that there would be a common candidate for Senate president from the Team PNoy coalition.

“Senator Villar assured us that the NP would continue to support the President and his legislative agenda in the Senate, that there will be a common candidate from the coalition and we will discuss the committees that the members of the NP would like to hold. More than 13 senators will choose a common candidate,” Drilon said.

Aside from the NP and LP, Team PNoy is composed of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and Akbayan party-list.

Nine Team PNoy members were elected senator in the last elections: Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Aquilino Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV and Cynthia Villar.

Aside from Drilon, the LP has incumbent senators Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III.

Considered allies of the administration in the Senate are Sergio Osmeña III, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Manuel Lapid.

Although Aquino supports Drilon, he will not directly meddle in the selection of Senate leaders, confident that Drilon could do it by himself.

The President said they were able to relay the message of the coalition to the people and all the good news happening in the country under the leadership of Drilon as campaign manager.

He said Drilon had been through a lot of elections and is an expert in dealing with fellow senators or those running for senator.

Drilon admitted he is seeking the support of the senators to become Senate president. He said Aquino has asked him “how things have been going.”

He said it was Pimentel who started the talks about the Senate presidency during the campaign.

“But I suppose that’s only in recognition for the help and the time and effort that we dedicated. And we are very thankful for their expression of support,” he said.

Asked about Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, of the NP, as a possible contender for the top Senate post, Drilon said there was no conflict between them.

“We’ve been supporting each other in the last three years. Alan Peter and Pia have always supported us, we have supported them and let’s leave it at that. They have supported us in our legislative agenda, particularly the sin tax. They were part of our bicameral conference committee and Pia supported the RH (reproductive health) bill wholeheartedly,” he said.

Drilon thanked Alan for reportedly saying he was his personal choice for Senate president.

If the NP would vote as a bloc for the Senate presidency, the administration would also have the support of Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Pia Cayetano.

Drilon said the President has not intervened in the discussions about the next Senate president.

“As our party leader, we keep him informed on a regular basis. But he does not intervene,” he said, adding his meeting with Villar was done independently and primarily to dispel speculations that the alliance between the NP and the administration would dissolve after the elections.

“Senator Villar assured us that the NP will continue to support the President and his legislative agenda in the Senate,” he said.

On the issue of the chairmanship of the committees in the 16th Congress, Drilon said this was taken up during his meeting with Villar because a number of senators are in their last terms and the new members would also have certain preferences.

“Certainly, the senators will choose their proposed committees on the basis on what they feel are their areas of competence and where they feel they can contribute to nation building,” he said.

Drilon expressed belief that the administration getting the majority bloc in the Senate is a foregone conclusion.

Traditionally, the majority bloc would have first crack at the committees and, depending on the discretion of the leadership, the minority bloc may or may not have any committees.

“The tradition in the Senate has been that we tap the expertise of each senator. I would like to continue that tradition,” Drilon said.

“Traditionally, and for the past several Congresses, each senator would be given his committee assignments. We really cannot satisfy everybody but we try to achieve a consensus to the extent that is humanly possible. All the 24 senators have their own strengths and as I’ve said, traditionally in past Congresses, all the senators have committees, except those who opt not to have one, like Senator Joker Arroyo,” he added.

Drilon said among the legislative measures that the administration would push are those related to Mindanao peace initiatives and economy to provide more jobs for the people.

“Examples are fixing the tax incentives and others pertaining to the economy,” Drilon said.

Asked if Team PNoy and the rest of the coalition members would support him, Drilon said: “We run on the basis of the platform of good governance. I am confident that the coalition will stick together in order that we can continue the reform agenda of President Noynoy.”

Jinggoy gives up

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada is giving up hope that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will retain his post when the 16th Congress opens in July.

“I must admit they have the numbers, if they will really be united under one common candidate, I cannot do anything about it because they are the majority,” Estrada said.

He said he is also ready to give up his post as Senate president pro-tempore.

Aside from Enrile and Estrada, the opposition is composed of Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Gregorio Honasan and neophyte senators JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay.

Sen. Ramon Revilla, who is now at odds with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of the LP, is said to be joining the opposition bloc.

Estrada said he is ready to become the minority leader if it so warrants. However, he is ready to give way in case Enrile or any of his colleagues want to be minority leader.

As this developed, sources said the NP senators will vote as a bloc with a concession that Sen. Alan Cayetano will be majority leader.

Reports said another NP allied senator is being eyed to replace Estrada as Senate president pro-tempore.

“There are still efforts to bring other senators to the Enrile bloc to enable them to retain the majority,” a source told The STAR.

“Since the opening of Congress is more than a month away, everything remains fragile.”

P-Noy hopes coalition will remain intact

Though it may seem impossible, President Aquino hopes the administration coalition will remain intact until 2016 and work to continue his reform agenda.

Aquino said the administration coalition’s success in the 2016 presidential elections will lie on the realization of its reform and development agenda in the next three years.

The President said he was grateful to the members of the coalition for the sacrifices they made to secure the support of the people.

“Of course I only have three more years remaining and when I am told, ‘How about after 2016?’ I will show those who are asking, ‘Look at those who joined this coalition. They will be the ones to continue (the reforms) once we are retired’,” Aquino said.

While these political parties may choose to stay together against the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), political observers say the 2016 presidential elections may change the dynamics as, for example, the NP might want to field its own candidate against that of LP.

The President said nine of 12 Team PNoy senatorial bets were able to secure the mandate from the people, which he noted was a product of hard work and unity.

“The sacrifices we asked from each one of them was no joke. And even if there were times when the campaign had been difficult and complex, we were always given a reason to thank the people and our fellowmen who served as our strength and inspiration and who made our every step easier,” Aquino said.

He thanked the Team PNoy candidates for taking care of the coalition and for having the same goal of strengthening the agenda of good governance.

“Despite the issues thrown left and right to weaken the relations, it seemed everyone’s link with each other even became stronger,” Aquino said.

He said he was initially apprehensive to call the administration slate Team PNoy as it might make him the target of black propaganda during the campaign.

The President said it was Drilon who suggested the name Team PNoy and was seconded by LP stalwarts Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Roxas. – With Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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