CEBU, JULY 8, 2010 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - A Senate leadership under Sen. Manuel Villar will not be a problem for President Aquino if that’s the choice of the majority of senators.

“If that’s what members of the Senate want, then I have to learn to live with it,” the President told Palace reporters in Filipino during a briefing.

Villar was his most serious contender in the May 10 polls, although the latter only came in third, after former President Joseph Estrada who placed second.

A former Tarlac congressman before his election to the Senate in 2007, Mr. Aquino explained that he knew well enough the workings and nuances of Congress, where any head of state would have to work out compromises to push forward his legislative agenda.

“I would like to be able to think that everything that we’ll propose to them as well as the bills that will be emanating from both chambers will be in the interest of the common good,” he said. AdTech Ad

“And if that doesn’t happen, we’re both equipped by the Constitution with relevant powers to make sure that what is the common good is what rises, rather than personal interests or vested interests,” he added.

Having a legislative deadlock would be the last thing on his mind. “I won’t work for a deadlock, and we in the legislature, especially those who came from the House, were trained to compromise so there would be no deadlocks,” he said in Filipino.

“If the recommendation is good, we will not reject it,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the legislative program of the Aquino administration would be better addressed if the President would have a friend and ally as Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives.

In an interview over government-owned radio dzRB, Lacierda said it has been the consensus among leaders and stalwarts of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) to field Sen. Francis Pangilinan as its contender for the Senate presidency.

“Of course it would be better if we pursue the Aquino government’s legislative agenda with both the Senate president and speaker as a friend and an ally. In that way, our legislative priorities will be given utmost importance,” he stressed.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, a former Senate president, has given way to his colleague Pangilinan in the Senate presidency race to be determined on July 26 – before the President delivers his first State of the Nation Address before the joint Congress.

The most likely Speaker is Quezon City Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr., another LP stalwart. He reportedly has the support of more than 170 lawmakers, out of the 270 members of the chamber.

Pangilinan’s most serious rival is Villar, a former Senate president who lost his presidential bid to Aquino in the May 10 polls.

Villar, the richest among the senators, is trying to regain the top Senate post after he was replaced in 2008.

P-Noy late again, but no wang-wang policy stays By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated July 08, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Even if it means being late every now and then, President Aquino maintained he would still set the example for his no wang-wang policy.

Mr. Aquino admitted the reality of arriving late to his appointments without his security convoy using sirens but stressed the policy should still be implemented.

It really is important that we set a good example, its good to wish for something different but this is the reality, so we live with the reality, Mr. Aquino said.

The President said the no siren policy would also force government officials to come more prepared and allow extra time.

So if I have an appointment and I need X amount of time to dress up, to have breakfast, to read the papers, to be prepared and then I should consider that, Mr. Aquino told reporters. AdTech Ad

In his first press briefing at Malacañang, Mr. Aquino explained why he arrived late for the Red Mass sponsored by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila.

A Red Mass is celebrated annually in the Catholic Church for judges, attorneys, law school professors, students, and government officials. The Red Mass traditionally seeks divine guidance for all incoming government officials.

The Mass was scheduled at 9 a.m. and it began 30 minutes late, without the President.

Mr. Aquino arrived at around 10 a.m. Those who waited for him to move from his residence at Times Street in Quezon City said the President left at 9:45 a.m. but his convoy managed to find a route that took them to the cathedral in 20 minutes even without sirens.

Mr. Aquino said it was not fair to accuse him of always being tardy, pointing out that he had been early in other appointments that could also cause inconvenience to a lot of people.

Mr. Aquino said there were two power outages while he was sleeping after coming home late from the Liberal Partys fellowship in Tagaytay City.

“There were two brownouts last night. And it did not help my sleep,” the President said.

“The main reason was I had a bit of an upset stomach,” he added.

In news briefing, Mr. Aquino said he was happy to see the people whose grateful faces reflect that he was being fair to everyone in his no-siren policy.

Even on Day One of his presidency, Mr. Aquino gave specific orders to his security escorts to stop at every traffic light even if it means being late for his appointments.

But the President said it was a bit unfair to say that he was always late, an impression he made since he supposedly came late during his very first Cabinet meeting last June 30. Mr. Aquino clarified that he was not late on that date.

The President said he was at Malacañangs holding area actually waiting for the arrival of his Cabinet officials.

“After that incident, they say I’m always late,” he lamented.

On the other hand, Mr. Aquino said it is also unwise to come in very early.

The President said his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino, made it a habit to come five minutes before the schedule.

Mr. Aquino said coming early would force people to scramble and catch up to avoid making the President wait.

Mr. Aquino said he had to apologize to Air Force officials who had to rush to the venue during their anniversary because he arrived too early.

Even GMA

The President constantly reminds government officials to take the cue from his inaugural speech on June 30, which virtually turned into a rallying cry against the indiscriminate use of sirens that has become a bane to motorists.

He directed all government officials to follow his lead and do away with the use of sirens and blinkers which, he said, only gives the public the impression that those with power abuse it.

Other government officials took the cue from Mr. Aquino, including his predecessor, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Her son, former congressman Juan Miguel Arroyo, said he has been accompanying his mother in her travels from their home in Quezon City to Pampanga.

The younger Arroyo said his mother has not been using sirens or blinkers though she remains entitled to armed escorts from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) as the former president.

Other lawmakers wanted to institutionalize Mr. Aquino’s no siren policy.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his younger brother Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez filed a proposal banning altogether the use of sirens and blinkers. They also wanted to ban the use of lower-numbered license plates on the vehicles of ranking government officials.

It used to be that part of the Filipinos driving experience included being cut off by private vehicles belonging to supposed VIPs using sirens or wang-wangs.

These VIPs abuse their power and privilege by driving like they own the roads, with all sorts of violations of traffic rules, the Cagayan de Oro lawmaker said.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, however, urged Mr. Aquino to reconsider his no-siren policy and focus particularly on his security.

Honasan, a former military officer, said there are serious security concerns especially if Mr. Aquino’s location is compromised every time he gets stuck in traffic.

“The President, by the very nature of his very difficult job, can set the example in more important ways. That’s good that he is espousing leadership by example. But what we see is that in the past week, his decision not to use sirens have become an obstacle,” Honasan said.

“I’ve been a security officer so many times, and for me, (getting stuck in traffic is) a serious security consideration,” he said.

Honasan urged his former Senate colleague to use sirens when necessary.

For his part, US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said there is no need to use sirens in the country.

“We follow the laws. I feel very safe here. Please accept the law and respect it,” Thomas said yesterday at the Manila Overseas Press Club Diplomatic Night.

Thomas said the US Embassy had not used a siren even before the campaign waged by President Aquino.

“We do not use siren. We follow the (traffic) law. The President said he would not want anyone using sirens except those where the law is clearly taken and we accept it,” the American envoy said.

Thomas said sirens should be used only for emergency situations such as ambulances rushing to the hospital.

“If they have an emergency or someone needs help or one of our people is going to the hospital, clearly I think that is exempted,” Thomas said.

Authorities, on the other hand, are now moving to apprehend motorists defying the presidential ban on sirens and blinkers.

Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Alberto Suansing said they would be asking for public assistance in monitoring motorists who continue to defy the ban.

Suansing urged the public to reach him through cell phone number 0918-9447951.

We encourage (the public) to report to us, he said. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Pia Lee-Brago and Reinir Padua

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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