THE race for the Senate presidency will likely cause a rift among the allies of presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte after two others expressed their intention to compete to clinch it.
Aside from Duterte’s defeated running mate, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Vicente Sotto III are also aiming to become Senate president.
But Duterte has advised his allies to just talk things over and not make the matter public. He said those who wanted to vie for the post should just settle the issue among themselves.
He also reminded them that the competition should not lead to a power struggle as he claimed that he did not care if his allies would not constitute the majority in Congress.
Pimentel is the president of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban while Duterte is the party’s chairman. Sotto belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the country’s second biggest political party that recently forged an alliance with PDP-Laban.
Cayetano is a member of the Nacionalista Party, which was the first to form a coalition with PDP-Laban after Duterte emerged victorious in his presidential run.
The battle for the Senate presidency could also turn out to be a four-way fight since incumbent Senate President Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party might also contest the position with Cayetano, Pimentel and Sotto.
Drilon on Monday said the LP members in the Senate were intact.
But when asked in a text message if he was confident of keeping his post when the new Congress opens in July, Drilon said: “The Senate presidency is determined by whoever has the support of 13 senators.”
Incoming senators Joel Villanueva (Cibac Party-list), returning Senator Panfilo Lacson (Independent) and Risa Hontivros (Akbayan Party-list) ran under the LP ticket.
But Villanueva and Lacson could not give a categorical response if they would back Drilon.
While he ran under the LP slate, Villanueva said, the Senate was an independent institution. He stressed he would remain chairman and president of the Cibac partylist group and cited his close personal ties with Cayetano, the godfather of his children.
Pangilinan could not say yet if the LP members and their allies would stick together despite the reported defections in the lower chamber.
“We have not yet talked in Senate, so I really would not know at this point,” he said in a separate message.
To become Senate president, a senator needs 13 votes from his colleagues.
Pimentel finally admitted on Friday his intention to run for the Senate presidency.
“As president of the party, I will aspire to be Senate President so that the agenda of the party and the President can be shepherded through the Senate,” Pimentel told reporters before his political group, PDP-Laban, signed a coalition agreement with the Nationalist People’s Coalition.