MANILA - Incumbent and incoming senators have started talks on the committee chairmanships in the upcoming 18th Congress, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Thursday, with the closest allies of President Rodrigo Duterte who won the senatorial race getting their desired posts.
Incoming and incumbent senators who will form the upper chamber in the 18th Congress had a meeting on Wednesday to discuss committee chairmanships. Sotto said some of the incumbents have agreed to give their chairmanship in some committees to the incoming members.
“I told them that in a matter of days, Senate leaders will discuss this with leaders from the political parties,” Sotto told reporters in a phone interview.
“But the way I look at it, clashes are rare. This is good because you will see that the incumbents are respecting the equity of the incumbent.”
Sotto said senator-elect Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, a long-time aide of the President, will chair the committees on health and demography; urban planning, housing and resettlement; and sports.
The health and demography and urban planning, housing and resettlement committees will be vacated by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who lost his reelection bid, while incumbent Sen. Manny Pacquiao agreed to give his chairmanship of the sports committee to Go.
Sotto said Go will likely be a vice-chairman at the committee on education, which will be split into two and chaired by incumbent Sens. Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva.
In a statement, Go said his choice of possible committees to lead was based on his legislative agenda.
Go said his priority is to improve medical and health care services through the establishment of Malasakit Centers. He also noted that many public hospitals lack not only necessary hospital equipment but also hospital beds.
Senator-elect Ronald dela Rosa, another close Duterte ally, meanwhile, will get the public order and dangerous drug committee, which was readily given by its current chair, Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino agreed to take the chairmanship of local government committee, currently chaired by reelected Sen. Sonny Angara, who will take the helm at the finance committee to be vacated by outgoing Sen. Loren Legarda.
Tolentino might also serve as vice chairman of the public services committee, Sotto said, as its current chair, incumbent Sen. Grace Poe, will stick to her post.
Senator-elect Imee Marcos, meanwhile, wants to get the chairmanship of the committees on social justice, welfare and rural development; and agrarian reform, chaired by detained Sen. Leila de Lima and Sen. Cynthia Villar, respectively.
Sotto said Villar was open to giving up her chairmanship of the agrarian reform committee, but the latter made it clear she still wants to lead the committees on agriculture and food; and environment and natural resources.
Sotto said he will talk to Senate Minority Leader Francis Drilon regarding the social justice committee led by fellow minority member De Lima.
Senator-elect Bong Revilla Jr., meanwhile, wants to get the chairmanship of the civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation committee which will be vacated by outgoing Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. He also wants to get the public information and mass media committee, currently chaired by Poe.
Sotto said Poe was open to let go some of her chairmanship of the public services committee as long as those that will be vacated by outgoing Sen. Francis Escudero would be given to her. Escudero heads the commissions on banks, financial institutions, and currencies; and education.
Returning Sen. Lito Lapid, meanwhile, will get the chairmanship of the games and amusement committee.
Sotto said senator-elect Pia Cayetano, who was not present during Wednesday’s gathering, had previously expressed her desire to lead the committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, chaired by incumbent Sen. Risa Hontiveros, another minority senator.
Sotto said he would also offer to Cayetano the chairmanship of the committees on ways and means; and electoral reforms and people’s participation, currently headed by Sens. Angara and Aquilino Pimentel III, respectively.
Pimentel, meanwhile, will let go of the electoral reforms and people’s participation committee chairmanship and will head the foreign relations committee, headed by the outgoing senator Legarda.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan will still head the constitutional amendments and revision of codes committee as no one expressed interest for the post, Sotto said.
The science and technology committee which will be vacated by outgoing Sen. Bam Aquino, meanwhile, still has no takers, while Sen. Nancy will replace Legarda as chairperson of the climate change committee.