'Senate presidency a toss-up between Alan, Koko'

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

LP may fall from grace with Duterte win

Alan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel

MANILA - The once all-powerful Liberal Party (LP) is poised to fall from grace once Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte officially becomes the 16th president of the Philippines.

Duterte defeated administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas in the May 9 elections, triggering political realignments in the LP-controlled Congress as the likely president moves to consolidate his grip on power.

University of the Philippines (UP) political science professor Prospero de Vera said the Senate presidency may be a toss-up between Duterte's defeated running mate, Alan Peter Cayetano, who is currently majority leader, and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Duterte's PDP-Laban partymate.

"It will depend on the negotiations between Cayetano and Koko Pimentel on who will be the Duterte-supported Senate President. Either one should be able to cobble together a majority coalition," De Vera said.

"If Koko Pimentel gets the SP [Senate President] position, it would facilitate a Cayetano movement to the executive branch possibly to be ES [Executive Secretary] or DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] secretary. An acting secretary can be appointed while the one-year ban on appointments applies to Cayetano."

UP political analyst Ranjit Rye said, "I think Senator Alan would be an excellent Senate President. He has both the competence and experience to lead the Senate. But this will not be easy given the current dynamics and the eventual make up of the senate post election."

Incumbent Senator Sonny Angara believes his two colleagues will become major players in the next Senate. "I'm quite sure Senators Koko and Alan will have major roles in the coming Senate since both are senior legislators and both have the trust and confidence of the President." 

COOPERATIVE COALITION? 

According to De Vera, it is best for the LP to become the opposition in the Senate.

Angara, however, would not count the LP out. "I don't know about the LP, but in terms of numbers, they still have around 6 or 7, and as such, would play a role in the Senate leadership race, and I would expect Senate President Drilon to be a major player too," he said.

Rye added, "The Liberal Party will be relevant in the leadership race in the new Senate. The key for Cayetano is to realize a coalition which support him and the reform agenda of the Duterte administration. My sense is that the incentive to be politically relevant and be accessible to resources will push the Liberal Party to build a cooperative coalition with the new government." 

De La Salle University political analyst Richard Heydarian said, "I think the LP will most likely end up as the main opposition party. Though they did well in the Senate race, I expect them to lose the Senate presidency to PDP-Laban (Pimentel) or other non-LP candidates."

"It remains to be seen whether Leni [Robredo] will be given any key portfolio in a Duterte Cabinet. If he decides to deny her any relevant position, then clearly, expect LP as main opposition. But if she were given any relevant position, then that means Leni could serve as a bridge between Duterte and the Aquino camp," Heydarian added. 

Senate President Franklin Drilon told media, "I do not want to talk about that at this point. It is premature. Let’s first do our duty to proclaim the newly-elected president and vice-president. That’s the first order of business, so that we can provide stability and a smooth transition of power into the next administration.

"In the Senate, there is continuity, and whoever are the leaders of the 16th Congress will continue to function as such until the elections take place at the opening of Congress. In the House of Representatives, since all their terms have ended on June 30, 2016, then I think the tradition is that the Secretary-General of the House presides over the session. 

"We have gone through this before. Senator [Manny] Villar was the Senate President, and he continued to be Senate President until the elections for the new officers of the Senate took place, consistent with the Constitution, and that is at the opening."

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 

Drilon noted he would like to see the Duterte administration's legislative agenda. "We will eagerly await the legislative agenda of the presumptive president Digong Duterte. He has the mandate of the people, we will work with him, but as I said, we will await his legislative agenda for the next Congress." 

He lamented that "during the campaign, we were not benefited with any indication of what the legislative agenda will be, so we eagerly await.

"And remember also, the budget of the Duterte administration will be submitted to Congress within 30 days from the convening, so the transition team must be working at this point, so that the budget can be submitted on time. Certainly, the inputs of the incoming administration will be respected and we will expect the budget to contain the policy direction of the administration of Mayor Duterte," Drilon said. 

He also expressed hope that teams from both the Duterte camp and the Aquino administration will be able to work out a smooth transition of power. 

SENATE COMPOSITION 

Of the current Senate, 12 will stay on until 2019: 

  • Alan Peter Cayetano, 
  • Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel, 
  • Juan Edgardo Angara, 
  • Bam Aquino, 
  • Nancy Binay, 
  • Francis Escudero, 
  • JV Ejercito, 
  • Gringo Honasan, 
  • Loren Legarda, 
  • Grace Poe, 
  • Antonio Trillanes, 
  • Cynthia Villar

If the current trend in the senatorial count continues, they will be joined by: 

  • Franklin Drilon, 
  • Vicente Sotto, 
  • Sherwin Gatchalian, 
  • Manny Pacquiao, 
  • Risa Hontiveros, 
  • Leila de Lima, 
  • Ralph Recto, 
  • Francis Pangilinan, 
  • Joel Villanueva, 
  • Panfilo Lacson, 
  • Richard Gordon, 
  • Miguel Zubiri.

HOUSE SPEAKERSHIP

For the Lower House, De Vera said: "The HoR is easier to predict because most congressmen will jump to PDP-Laban or align themselves to the one supported by the new president."

Duterte has expressed preference for his partymate, incoming Davao del Norte Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez, one-time transportation secretary under the Arroyo administration, to be the Speaker under his administration.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles told ABS-CBN, "(Mayor) Duterte wants Pantaleon 'Bebot' Alvarez to be the Speaker of the 17th Congress."

Asked what he will do about this, Sonny Belmonte said: "Just continue working with LPs and their allies."

READ: Will Belmonte battle Alvarez for Speakership?

Belmonte led an exodus from the Lakas-CMD to the LP when President Aquino was elected in 2010, leaving the Lakas a weakened minority.

Belmonte added, "I also know Bebot. We served in Congress during Villar's speakership. Then President GMA got him as her DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communications] head, serving more than a year."

Belmonte told ABS-CBN news, "Still studying my options." when asked if he will join the majority or the minority in the next congress.

Belmonte is on his final term while Alvarez is on his 1st term after an absence of 15 years.

Belmonte first assumed the speakership in 2001 after then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the presidency after EDSA Dos.

IMPEACHMENT AND LENI

Belmonte was minority leader under the Estrada Administration and initiated the impeachment of Estrada. Belmonte was also Arroyo's partymate in Lakas.

Now, Belmonte is the partymate of Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, the frontrunner in the unofficial tally for vice-president. Their partymate Mar Roxas has conceded to Duterte.

Robredo is said to be the Liberal Party's Plan B to reclaim power by impeaching Duterte.

Belmonte, however, squelched all talk of impeaching Duterte. "A lot of bullshit. Somebody's gimmick....By the way, l am on record as completely against any such talk, even if only for political effect."

Belmonte expressed his well-wishes for Duterte. "I wish him well and a successful presidency for the sake of our people."

Heydarian believes Robredo won't be a threat to Duterte. "...both Leni and Duterye are political outsiders so in many ways, I don't think Leni is seen as a threat or anything. Leni barely showed ambition for even the VP position. Although, of course, if things go south under Duterte, Leni could find herself in the same scenario as GMA (under Estrada)." 

Alvarez also told ABS-CBN separately that he is open to the speakership and that he is working on it "quietly." Alvarez declined to comment on his possible rivals as he "will be needing their support."

Under the Estrada administration, Manny Villar was elected speaker after he led an exodus of congressmen to Estrada from the camp of Jose de Venecia in the 1998 elections. Villar would later on join the impeachment of Estrada.

ARROYO's FUTURE 

Heydarian, meantime, believes Arroyo will have a better time under Duterte. Arroyo is on her final term as Pampanga 2nd district Representative. Arroyo made Duterte her anti crime adviser when she was president. 

"I think GMA will most likely be freed from house arrest and, as I forecasted before, serve as an important elder statesman in retirement. Some of her Cabinet members like [Gilbert] Gibo Teodoro are after all poised to occupy key posts in a Duterte administration. Duterte can begin the process of national reconciliation by building an inclusive Cabinet, shun filing any cases against Aquino, and address Arroyo's legal limbo. She will be more like [Fidel] Ramos, providing advice and mobilizing support for preferred candidates."

Heydarian believes Duterte's policies can be influenced by Arroyo's. "I think directly and through her former Cabinet members who are set to take up key portfolios in the Duterte administration, expect Duterte to continue Arroyo-era macroeconomic reforms and similarly adopt an equilateral balancing strategy towards China and US."

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