No leadership changes in Senate
MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Vicente Sotto III on Monday was voted by an overwhelming majority of his colleagues as Senate President, assuring President Rodrigo Duterte of continued support in the Senate for his legislative agenda.
Sotto was voted by his colleagues through viva voce, in what was seen as an affirmation of his leadership in the Senate since taking over Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of the ruling party PDP-Laban, in May 2018.
Sotto thanked his colleagues for trusting him to lead the chamber anew, but stressed he is still their equal.
“Thank you is a very weak expression to convey the deep sense of gratitude that I feel today, for the honor of being your Senate President,” Sotto said in his acceptance speech.
“I am your listener, your adviser if you so desire, your enabler for anything within my power to do so.”
Minority Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, and Risa Hontiveros abstained from the voting. Sen. Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges, and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who is in the US following his bout with Keith Thurman, were not around to vote.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri nominated Sotto for reelection, saying he is "the best man for the job."
Zubiri said throughout the various challenges faced by the Senate, “Senator Sotto showed us a way through.”
"Senate President Sotto had a long and accomplished legislative career. Prior to his Senate presidency, no one is more familiar with the ways of the Senate than he is," he said.
Sen. Ralph Recto was also reelected as Senate Presidente Pro-Tempore. Zubiri was elected as Chairman of the Committee on Rules, automatically making him the Majority Floor Leader.
Drilon, meanwhile, retained his position as Minority Leader after being chosen by fellow minority senators Pangilinan, De Lima, and Hontiveros.
The Senate leaders were elected ahead of President Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address on Monday.
A DENT ON PDP-LABAN
Sotto’s reelection as Senate President was expected because of his wealth of experience in the Senate as well as his willingness to show flexibility on some contentious issues, said University of the Philippines political science professor Ela Atienza.
"Matagal na ang experience niya sa Senate… He has worked with a lot of the senators, kahit ang mga nasa opposition. In that sense 'yung mga pro-administration plus those in the opposition na medyo independent ang stance nila, mas preferred siya,” Atienza told ABS-CBN News.
(He has a long experience in the Senate… He has worked with a lot of the senators, even those in the opposition. This is why pro-administration senators and the independent minded opposition prefer him.)
“Kung sasabihin na interes ng Senate, interes ng senators, he can fight for that.”
(If we talk about the interests of the Senate and the senators, he can fight for that.)
But Atienza said Sotto’s continued hold on the Senate presidency is a dent on the influence of PDP-Laban, even though its members in the Senate have also expressed support for his leadership.
She said PDP-Laban’s failure to secure the leadership at the two chambers of Congress is a manifestation of the poor political party system in the country.
Atienza said the supermajority coalition in Congress composed of members of various political parties will continue to hold as long as the President remains popular. She added this would ensure that the President’s legislative priorities will be tackled by Congress.
But if Duterte’s popularity wanes, Atienza warned some senators, being nationally elected, might be more willing to show some independence on some issues.
“We have senators who appear to be part of majority, but even during the past Congresses, they exerted or displayed their independence,” she said.
“Some of them are eyeing if not reelection, higher office. They are making political calculations.”