Next Senate President: Koko Pimentel

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 June) – The next Senate President will be a Mindanawon, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon announced in a press conference in Manila on Wednesday morning.

Drilon announced at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay that an agreement was reached evening of June 7 where some 16 to 17 senators from various political parties – the Liberal Party (LP), Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition (NPC), Akbayan and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), among others – will support Pimentel’s bid.

A simple majority of 13 is needed to elect a Senate President.

Drilon also announced that based on the agreement, he will be the Senate President Pro Tempore while Senator Vicente Sotto III, who had earlier announced his bid for the Senate Presidency, will be Majority Leader.

Asked by the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) Wednesday noon if the Senate Presidency was a “done deal,” the younger Pimentel, President of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), replied: “if the agreement holds up to July 25, then (it is) already a done deal.”

July 25 is when the 17th Congress opens and President Duterte, PDP-Laban chair, will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Pimentel said he wants a written agreement signed by the senators based on common principles, and once he has a copy, will bring this to the attention of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Duterte’s defeated running mate in the May elections.

Cayetano, Senate Majority leader, had earlier signified his intent to run for the Senate’s top post.

Pimentel said Duterte endorsed Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez for Speaker at the House of Representatives but kept a “hands off” policy in the Senate.

“I’ve never been a member of the House of Representatives,” Pimentel said, adding he was informed the dynamics at the House is different from the Senate’s. “You could not apply the formula you apply to the House,” he said.

Asked by ANC about the proposed talk with Cayetano, Pimentel answered that he “aspired for the Senate Presidency, knowing Alan (Cayetano) is also interested.”

He said he wanted it to be a “friendly competition for hearts and minds” and will “extend the hand of friendship and invitation for Alan and his group to join us.”

“I also need his help, his ideas, his energy to support the legislative agenda of President Duterte,” Pimentel told ANC’s Karmina Constantino.

Pimentel said the coalition Drilon mentioned has a composition of “16 to 17 senators.”

“UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) is with us. NPC is with us. The Independents (Panfilo Lacson) is with us, PDP-Laban, LP, Akbayan and CIBAC (Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption) of Joel Villanueva,” he said.

He said they expect a coalition of 22 senators if Cayetano’s party joins them.

“Who’s going to be the opposition there?” Constantino asked.

Pimentel said the minority will “check on the majority in case we get reckless and we use our numbers…”

“Even in the majority, we can disagree but we do not break up the majority,” Pimentel added.

Pimentel explained that the coalition will focus on principles and legislative ideas. “We are coming together because as Senate, we want President (Duterte) to succeed in his agenda. We will have to help in the legislative agenda,” citing the shift to federal system of government, the all-out war versus crime, drugs and corruption by finding “creative ways to even convince a potential criminal to no longer pursue his crime / tendency / inclination.”

Pimentel said the PDP-Laban and LP had actually coalesced in 1992 when the two parties supported Senate President Jovito Salonga and his father, Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., when they ran for President and Vice President of the Philippines

Retired general Fidel Ramos and Senator Joseph Estrada won in that election.

Pimentel will be the 23rd Senate President. His father was the 18th Senate President (see other story).

In the 24-member Senate, Mindanawons comprise a minority. In the 17th Congress, only three are from Mindanao: Pimentel, returning senator Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon and world boxing icon and Senator-elect Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao of Sarangani.