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Drilon: Pimentel will be Senate president

Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban) President and Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is going to be the Senate President in the 17th Congress, Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday said.

Drilon made the announcement yesterday at a forum in Manila saying the decision was arrived at after a meeting with major political parties in the Senate, particularly the six Liberal Party members, one Akbayan Party-list member, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC), and other allied political groups on Tuesday night.

He said the two groups, one led by him and the other led by Sen. Vicente Sotto III, have the support of 16 or 17 senators.

“Last night we met and had the agreement. The president of the incoming Senate will be Sen. Aquilino (Koko) Pimentel. I will be Senate Pro-Tempore and Sen. Sotto will be majority leader,” Drilon said during the press conference.

The objective of the “super majority” would be to support the legislative agenda of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte and to provide stability in the leadership in the 24-man Senate.

“We maintain the independence of the Senate but at the same time, we will support, in general, the legislative agenda of President Duterte,” Drilon further said.

While the set up would be unusual with Pimentel being the only member of the PDP-Laban, Drilon said the move is meant to show the Senate’s willingness to cooperate with the incoming Duterte administration.

“This is to show that yes, we are willing to support, in general, the legislative agenda of this administration,” Drilon said.

“No, we did not bow (to a one-man party). Those are provocative adjectives. We decided on Koko. He is very qualified. We want to show support, in general, in the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration, as we have recognized that they have the mandate of the people,” he said.

Drilon said there is no written coalition similar to the House of Representatives where LP members entered into a coalition agreement, but assured that “it’s cast in stone.”

“There are 24 republics in the Senate. Each one of us has his/her own mandate. Each one of us makes his/her own decision. We did not take into account what was happening in the House. We took into account what we believe the Senate, as an institution, should stand for,” Drilon said.

In a text message, however, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who ran as vice president in the last May 2016 elections with Sen. Grace Poe as his presidential running mate, said he is keen on becoming a member of the minority.
Escudero said he has already informed Pimentel of his decision. (HANNAH TORREGOZA)