DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 May) – If bar topnotcher and reelectionist Senator Aquilino Pimentel III of Cagayan de Oro City is not dislodged from the winners’ circle in the Senate race, the 24-member Senate will have five Mindanawons in the 18th Congress from 2019 to 2022.
The 55-year old Pimentel is on the 11th spot while the 44-year old former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go of Davao City, and 57-year old former Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa of Davao del Sur are assured of victory, placing third and fifth, respectively, based on the Commission on Elections’ partial, unofficial results.
In the Senate, the three will join two more Mindanawon senators who were elected in 2016 and will complete their six-year term from 2019 to 2022: Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri III of Bukidnon, 50, and Emmanuel Pacquiao of Sarangani, 40.
Go, Dela Rosa and Pimentel will serve until 2025.
The number five is the highest number of Mindanawon representation in the so-called Upper House since 1916.
In the post-EDSA Congress from 1987, the highest number of Mindanawons elected in the Senate was four, during the 8th Congress from 1987 to 1992, the first election after the Marcos dictatorship was ousted and democracy restored.
The four Mindanawon senators elected by the nation in 1987 were lawyers Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. of Cagayan de Oro and Teofisto Guigona Jr. of Misamis Oriental, public school teacher Santanina Rasul of Siasi, Sulu and lawyer Mamintal Tamano of Tamparan, Lanao del Sur.
Before they became Senators, businessman Zubiri and professional boxer Pacquiao had served as Representatives in Congress – Zubiri representing the third district of Bukidnon for three terms from 1998 to 2007 and Pacquiao the lone district of Sarangani for two terms from 2010 to 2016.
Pimentel, who topped the bar in 1991, made his first attempt to enter the political arena by running for the Senate in 2007. The son of former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. filed an electoral protest alleging fraud on the part of Zubiri who allegedly benefited from “dagdag-bawas” (vote adding/shaving) in Maguindanao.
Zubiri was proclaimed winner in 2007 by a margin of some 20,000 votes over Pimentel’s votes but in the recount of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, Pimentel won with 250,000 more votes.
In a privilege speech on August 3, 2011, Zubiri announced his resignation “because of these unfounded accusations against me, and this issue has systematically divided our nation and has cast doubts in our electoral system which has affected not only myself, this institution but the public as well.”
He said he resigned not because the allegations were true or that he was already tired but because he wanted to defend his and his family’s “honor, integrity and dignity”.
Pimentel took his oath as Senator on August 12, 2011.
Unlike Zubiri and Pacquiao, Pimentel, Go and Dela Rosa entered the Senate race with no previous elective position. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)