Before votes are cast as to who between Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Cynthia Villar will become the next Senate president, the contenders must first first hurdle the issue on what committee chairmanship will be given to each senator who will vote for either of them.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in an interview Friday said, heading a committee not only elevates the stature of a legislator, but also helps the senator – as head of the committee – push for his or her personal agenda and advocacy.
“In the Senate, you have what you call as major committees and the minor committees. Major committee for example would be the finance committee, the Blue Ribbon, the ways and means… there is no hard and fast rule, everything is fluid it depends on the negotiation for each and every member of the Senate,” Drilon, in a virtual interview, told journalists.
The Senate tradition prioritizes old-timers and returnees when it comes to committee chairmanship allocation, Drilon, a four-time Senate President, said.
Neophyte members are given minor committees, he added.
In the 18th Congress, the Senate leadership decided to split the education committee, to allow Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva advance their advocacies for the youth.
Senate sources said the incoming Senate also has members asking for the same committee.
The finance committee for example, which is being chaired by Senator Sonny Angara, is reportedly being eyes by its former head, Senator-elect Loren Legarda, aside from Senator Imee Marcos.
Senator Cynthia Villar heads the environment panel, which is an advocacy of Legarda.
There might also be a repeat of tug-of-war for the education committee with the return of its former head, Senator-elect Chiz Escudero.
Meantime, Senator-elect JV Ejercito has already expressed his interest to resume his health advocacies.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go chairs the health committee.
The labor committee headed by Senator Joel Villanueva is being eyed by Senator Raffy Tulfo, who also wants the civil service panel, being handled by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr.
Both Ejercito and Senator-elect Mark Villar are also reportedly eyeing the public works committee.
A source from Zubiri's camp said they are pushing for the “equity of the incumbent” as a sign of respect for senior members of the Senate.
“We would like to push for the equity of the incumbent especially for remaining chairpersons such Sonny A (Angara), for Finance as well as for the others. But we will definitely work on the requests of our colleagues on their priorities. A win-win solution for the super majority is in place. Consensus building is the key to all of this,” the source said.
Both Drilon and Senate President Vicente Sotto III meantime, insist a senator in reality doesn’t need to chair a committee to be an effective legislator.
“It should not really matter, especially in the Senate because you can assert yourself and you can take a position on a particular issue and have it admitted by the public without being chairman. But there are certain prerogatives of being chair which carries a certain degree of prestige,” Drilon pointed out.
“Ang totoo nyan pagka ikaw ay ika nga mataas ang, maganda ang lipad ng pakpak mo sa Senado eh hindi eh hindi mo talaga kailangan ng committee. Pwede ka talagang makialam sa lahat ng committee. Eh di mag-member ka na lang. Siguro naging ugali lang ng mga senador na parang, title… mahalaga sa kanila yung title,” Sotto, in a phone interview, said.
Drilon said regardless of one’s background or expertise, any senator can chair a committee once the majority decides.
Still, Sotto insisted, sensitive committees like the national defense and constitutional amendments, which are both being eyed by Senator-elect Robin Padilla, need a lot.
“Walang requirement pero merong tinatawag na expertise… kung constitutional amendments, ang ideal, hindi man abogado, dapat may experience on constitutional law,” Sotto said.
And added: “For three decades ikaw nga, kailangan may expertise on defense and security. Kaya usually ang ating hinahalal dun kundi former general ng Armed Forces chief of staff or police… yun ang ideal consideration.”
Angara meantime said, that while committee chairmanship is again a serious matter in the Senate, the senators can peacefully resolve the issue.
“May mga usapin dito sa mga committees, pero kung baga, pla-plantsahin lahat yan sa daratIng na mga linggo, especially kung may 2 o lampas 2 na nagnanais sa isang partikular na komite. Puno at dulo nito is, collegial ang magiging desisyon ibig sabihin dadaan sa usapan at di lang desisyon ng iisa o iilan lamang,” Angara said.