MANILA – Newly minted Senate President Aquilino ''Koko'' Pimentel III said Monday that he will be a fair leader in the upper legislative chamber, even as some lawmakers in the lower house are complaining of a minority submissive towards the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Pimentel, Duterte's lone party mate in the Senate, said he will respect the rights of the minority.
''To those who disagree with the current majority, let me offer my hand of friendship and camaraderie, with the assurance that in the running of the affairs of our institution, we shall be guided by the democratic principle that even as the majority rules, the rights of minority will always be respected,'' Pimentel said in his acceptance speech.
Pimentel got the backing of 20 senators. Three senators, including Pimentel, voted Sen. Ralph Recto for Senate President. The other two are Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Sen. Francis Escudero.
Pimentel said he is proud that the ''value of subordination of personal interest to the common good can be found here in the Senate of the Philippines."
Pimentel made this statement amid complaints from a few voices in the House of Representatives that the Duterte administration is setting up a weak minority.
United Nationalist Alliance president Tobias Tiangco, who represents Navotas, accused the majority of ''game fixing'' after his party mate, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, was anointed by the majority to become the minority leader.
To express his dismay, Tiangco on Monday announced he is leaving UNA.
Hopes for a supposed genuine opposition bloc led by the Liberal Party also vanished when former House Speaker Sonny Belmonte dropped his bid for the speakership in the 17th Congress.
Had Belmonte ran and lost to presumptive Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, he would have automatically become the minority leader.
Meanwhile, Pimentel noted that he is the first Mindanaoan to become Senate President.
''It has never been this way. In fact for a long time, the people of Mindanao have felt excluded from the center of political power that defined policies and power,'' he said.
''Now, history seems to be making up for all those times of exclusion. It is now mandating that the two main branches of the tripartite governmental setup, namely the executive and legislative, be led by individuals from Mindanao."
Pimentel hails from Cagayan de Oro while Alvarez is from Davao del Norte.
Before being installed as the first Mindanaoan president, Duterte served as mayor of Davao City for over two decades.
''The above mentioned events now give us Mindanaoans a singular opportunity to show the nation and the world at large that we are up to the challenge in serving the best interest of our people,'' Pimentel said.
In his speech, Pimentel also listed down his legislative priorities based on the campaign promises of President Duterte. Among the priorities on the Senate's legislative agenda are the shift to a federal form of government and strengthening laws fighting crime and corruption.
Pimentel said he will also work on revising the taxation system, strengthening the rule of law, and reforming the budget.
He will also prioritize laws that call for sustainable and inclusive economic growth, protect the environment, deliver quality education and healthcare, fight abuse and the abusive, and focus on needs of the situation of helpless and impoverished members of the Philippines society.