Incoming Senate sees possible new minority faces

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2022 04:52 PM

MANILA — Senate sources on Tuesday have identified some personalities who will likely join the chamber’s minority bloc under the 19th Congress.

At least two sources, who hold important positions in the chamber, disclosed to ABS-CBN News the likelihood of Sen. Pia Cayetano and her brother, Alan Peter Cayetano, joining the minority bloc.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who became at odds with the camp of President Rodrigo Duterte because of the PDP-Laban party squabble and whose party was formed because of the atrocities committed during the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. regime, is said to be also gearing towards becoming part of the Senate’s opposition bloc.
 
In the “Magic 12” list of the Halalan 2022 senatorial candidates, only Sen. Risa Hontiveros belongs to the opposition camp.

One of the sources said the Cayetanos have not much option but to join the minority bloc, given their animosity with the Marcoses.
 
“Alan (Cayetano) almost qualifies as BBM’s (Bongbong Marcos) mortal enemy, dating back to 2016 VP elections. BBM for the next 3 years will chop off the Cayetanos from Taguig politics. It is a fight for survival of the Cayetanos,” one of the sources said.

Alan Peter was Marcos' vice presidential rival in 2016, although both lost to Vice President Leni Robredo. During the debates at that time, Alan Peter highlighted the Marcos family’s corruption issue and net worth in millions of pesos.

The Cayetano-Marcos tension was also visible during the 18th Congress, the source said.
 
“That animosity spills to the Senate floor regularly between Pia and Imee (Marcos),” the source added.

ABS-CBN News tried to get the Cayetano siblings’ statements on talks that they will likely join the minority bloc and their would-be roles in the chamber.
 
Their staff, however, said that the two are preoccupied with their scheduled meetings.

Pimentel, meanwhile, said he is "open to anything including being with the minority." The senator is the son and namesake of martial law victim, the late Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, Jr.

As regards the Senate presidency issue, Pimentel said he wants to “maintain a hands off policy”.

 
Hontiveros, in a recent interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, admitted having mixed emotions for being the lone opposition senatorial candidate to be joining the 19th Congress.
 
“Masaya ako. Pero siyempre, 'yung puso ko, may halong lungkot, galit. Halos hindi makapaniwala at may hiya din,” she said.
 
Hontiveros said she would work to find allies in the new Senate to ensure that the people’s voice would remain strong in the chamber.
 
“'Yan ang isang tatrabahuhin ko. Naniniwala ako na hindi ako nag-iisa," she said.

"At gaano man kahirap tingnan 'yung scenario na ganun, eh talagang tatrabahuhin ko na magkakaroon ng isang tunay at malakas na minorya sa isang Senado, na gaano man kahirap gawin sa papasok na administration ay hindi ikakahiya nung nakaraan at magpapatuloy ng tradisyon."
 
Hontiveros’ ally, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, believes that the number of minority members in the Senate will increase once the Marcos administration starts grinding.
 
“During the early part, 'Sige, help out the new administration'. Pero 'pag meron nang medyo hindi magandang nakikita, meron at merong lilipat diyan,” Trillanes said.
 
Outgoing Sen. Panfilo Lacson underlined the importance to maintain the Senate’s independence, regardless of the strong political influence of the top official in Malacañang.
 
The chamber can secure such independence provided that its next Senate President will enjoy all the senators' respect, he said.
 
“He (next Senate President) must possess good leadership qualities that can command respect from '23 republics,' even from the minority bloc,” Lacson said.
 
“He must be able to assert the independence of the Senate from Malacañang without being an obstructionist by putting the interest of the country and the Filipino people above all other interests... He must care about the morale of the employees,” he added.
 
Sen. Sonny Angara allayed concerns that the next Senate would easily bend to the sitting president.
 
“I think the Senate will always maintain some degree of independence given the diversity of its members. Miyembro sila ng iba't ibang partido at dala nila ang kaniya-kaniyang pananaw at ideolohiya at adbokasiya," he said.
 
Angara noted that predicting now the minority bloc’s composition in the Senate is too early.
 
“Maaga pa bago malaman sino ang mag-miyembro sa minority bloc. Dito sa rules ng Senado, usually yung binoto for Senate President pero di n'ya nakuha ang highest number of votes, ang nagiging minority leader,” he said.
 
“Ang challenge for the next SP is paano mapag-isa ang bagong Senado at makakuha ng malakas na mayorya na magta-trabaho kaagad para masuportahan ang mga repormang ninanais ng bagong administrasyon ni BBM,” he added.
 
For Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who also served as minority leader in his previous Senate stints, said: “The good time to be in the minority is if the Senate leadership is weak.”
 
UP Political Science professor Dr. Jean Franco expressed confidence that the next Senate would observe a “critical collaboration” with the incoming Marcos administration, as the outgoing Senate did with the Duterte administration.
 
“Ang Senate has always been composed of separate republic, sabi nila. 'Yung mga senators, if they want to derail a particular legislative measure, they can do so. Kasi kokonti lang sila eh," she said. 

"I guess the Senate President will issue a call for critical collaboration, because they know that sometimes, they really cannot predict what an individual senator, or how an individual senator would behave."
 
“'Yung critical collaboration would be I guess to appease people who would be saying na ‘Ano ba yan, parang wala nang checks and balances'," she added.

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