Palace says it respects senators’ “rights” to choose own leader in Senate

By Meanne Corvera
Eagle News Service

The Palace on Friday, May 18, said it respects the “rights” of senators to choose their own leader in the Upper House.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the comment following reports 14 senators have signed a draft resolution calling for a change in the Senate leadership, with Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto hoping to take the helm from Senate President Koko Pimentel.

The draft resolution aimed at naming  Pimentel’s successor was signed by Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Chiz Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Ping Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Migz Zubiri.

Senator Grace Poe was reportedly slated to sign the resolution, which also contained  Pimentel’s name.

He, however, did not affix his signature on the document.

According to some senators who refused to identify themselves, the change in leadership should have taken place in January based on a gentleman’s agreement between Pimentel and Sotto, but Pimentel had wanted to remain in the post until October, before he files his certificate of candidacy for the 2019 midterm elections.

The senators said the draft resolution was formed during Zubiri’s birthday party last week.

“Napaaga lang siguro dahil siya (Pimentel) ay magiging reelectionist. Maganda rin siguro na makapagprepare na ang Senado kung sakali, hindi yung kung kailan andiyan na saka magkakaroon ng pagbabago. Para at least tuloy tuloy ang trabaho namin na kahit na marami sa amin ay busy na sa pangangampanya sa pag-iikot, at least yung leadership yung continuity,”  Ejercito said.

He admitted it was also possible some senators were “hurt” when the Senate as an institution was “attacked” by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

In January, Alvarez called the Upper House “mabagal na kapulungan” for its alleged failure to act on measures which have already been approved by the House of Representatives.

“Parang ang pakiramdam rin siguro ng marami dapat dinepensahan ang Senado as an institution,” Ejercito said.

According to Binay, it would be better if the next Senate president was not a reelectionist.

“Kasi ngayon kaya nagkaroon ng ganung problema dahil sa isyu ng pagiging kapartido so nahahaluan ng pulitika ang Senado lalong lalo na kapag, ngayon pa lang medyo nag-uumpisa na kumbaga ang direksyon ngayon papunta na sa 2019. It’s more or less politicized,” she said.

Possible Sotto replacement

While no major changes were expected in committee chairmanships, among those being considered to replace Sotto  as Senate Majority Leader, should the change in Senate leadership push through, was Zubiri.

“I am deeply honored that my colleagues have once again considered me as their majority floor leader if and when the change in the Senate leadership happens. I will perform with the same work ethic as I had in the previous 14th congress,” Zubiri said.

Earlier, Pimentel admitted there could be a change in leadership in the Senate, but did not give a date for this.

Sotto has already expressed his willingness to accept the new role if the majority of senators would entrust it to him.