Since the Senate Presidency “is already in his bag,” Senator-elect Juan Miguel Zubiri just needs the 19th Congress to open on July 25 to officially claim the Upper Chamber’s highest post.
As of press time, Zubiri sees no threat to his desire to become Senate President. He emerged the lone contender for the top post after Senator Cynthia A. Villar quit the race.
Stressing she just wants a “simple life,” Villar—called the “Mama Bear” of the group—yielded to the next SP, who succeeds Senator Vicente Sotto III.
The other reported aspirants for the Senate Presidency—returning Senators Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero and re-elected Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian—appeared to have abandoned their desire to lead the chamber. It was reported they did not have the numbers that Zubiri already clinched.
Legarda will sit as Senate President Pro Tempore, while Gatchalian will lead the Senate committee ways and means.
Escudero will take over the justice committee from Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who has yet to be assigned a committee chairmanship.
With the Senate presidency secured, Zubiri’s first focus is resolving the looming rivalry over the chairmanship of the Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC).
While Sen. Francis Tolentino had gladly accepted Zubiri’s offer to lead the committee, returning Sen. Alan Cayetano wants the same chair.
Noting he has always been a “fiscalizer,” Cayetano said he would join the majority bloc in the Senate only if given the chairmanship of the Blue Ribbon, which he had led previously.
Although Tolentino agreed to head the BRC, he still needs the votes of the majority before he can be officially declared its chairman.
According to Cayetano, he will be able to do his job as a fiscalizer in the BRC.
“But if you will give me a committee where I cannot fiscalize or only a few will fiscalize or those who will fiscalize are in disagreement, that would be difficult,” he explained.
Cayetano likewise told Zubiri that if he believes in democracy “just like the 31 million Filipinos who voted for President-elect Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos,” he should also believe in fiscalizing.
Outgoing Senate President Sotto rusts Zubiri to decide on the issue and that issues “are inclined settle on their own.”
“The Senate is like water. It seeks its own level. I think the problem will resolve itself,” Sotto related.
Zubiri said he would need to consult the majority first on the request of Cayetano.
Sotto also asserted that since Zubiri has learned so much as majority leader under three Senate Presidents, all those lessons will give him “a very good pulse” to run the Senate.
“He was the best choice as far as the members of the majority are concerned because of his vast experience. “
“I expect him to do well,” Sotto said in an interview.
Zubiri will remain as Senate President Pro Tempore until June 30 and become Acting Senate President from July 1 to 25.
Meanwhile, Cayetano said he will be happy to be in the minority if the majority cannot give him a role where he can explicitly say when is right, when is wrong.
Her sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano, might also join the bloc he will choose since they share the same values.
Another focus of Zubiri is the “super majority” which he formed and is composed of him as Senate President, Legarda as President Pro Tempore, and Sen. Joel Villanueva as majority leader.
So far, only two senators are perceived to join the minority bloc, Senator-elect Risa Hontiveros, and Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
Either one of them could serve as the Minority Leader in the 19th Congress.
“I would be honored to nominate him as Minority Leader or to serve as Minority if that’s what we finally decide,” said Hontiveros of Pimentel, a former Senate President.
For now, the opposition senator said she and Pimentel are working closely together.
“First, we have to form first a Minority Bloc in the Senate,” she said.
Hontiveros is the only senatorial candidate from the opposition who won a seat in last May’s election. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon belongs to the “graduating” senators exiting the chamber on June 30.
Two other opposition senators in the 18th Congress did not emerge victorious in the last elections—reelectionists Senator Leila De Lima and Senator Francis Pangilinan, who vied for the vice presidency.
Sought for comment on the Senate leadership from the ranks of the minority, Pimentel noted that “if ever it will be the two of us, Senator Risa and myself, then we have agreed that she will nominate me, or she will vote for me as minority leader.”
But Hontiveros said nothing is final yet.
Pimentel also stressed no concrete plans that have been set for now because the minority bloc is the last group to be organized after the Senate President is elected.
He and Hontiveros are still not sure if other senators will join the opposition bloc.
However, Pimentel said he is being “very, very optimistic” about thepossibility of having up to five members in the minority if they will be joined by the Cayetano siblings and Sen. Chiz Escudero.
“Technically, we will consider as minority all those who did not vote for the Senate president, all those who did not participate in the voting of the Senate president. So, it is only after that vote, but we will look around, find out who these people are then we’ll have to meet who is our minority leader,” explained Pimentel.
With this composition, he said they can come up with a “formidable minority” since four of the six lawyers in the Senate will belong to their bloc.
Citing the separation of three branches of the government, Senator Imee Marcos believes her brother, President-elect Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., will not meddle in the Senate presidency race.
“It’s most unlikely and quite improper, “ said Sen. Marcos who reiterated that her role would be a self-appointed Special Assistant to the President (SAP).
“Super Ate of the President so I already have a role,” also said Sen. Marcos who had rejected the idea of seeking the Senate Presidency.
As of June 1, 2022, the following are expected to retain their committee chairmanships: Gatchalian for Basic Education; Nancy Binay, Tourism; Sonny Angara, Finance; Villar, Agriculture, and Environment; Bong Go, Health and Grace Poe, Public Services and Banks.
Tolentino is the projected chair of the Blue Ribbon, with Marcos on Foreign Relations; Raffy Tulfo, Energy and OFWs (new committee); Robin Padilla, Constitutional Amendments; Go, Sports; Escudero, Justice; Bong Revilla, Public Works; Lito Lapid, Games; JV Ejercito, Local Government and Higher Education; and Jinggoy Estrada, Labor.