By Hannah Torregoza
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday he expects Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III to be more assertive in defending the Senate as an institution especially against members of the ruling administration PDP-Laban party led by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
In an interview over Radio DZBB, Drilon made the statement when asked about reports of a draft resolution removing Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and installing Sotto as the new leader of the Upper Chamber.
“I believe Senator Sotto would be more assertive against the attacks of the PDP-Laban, particularly from Speaker Alvarez,” Drilon said.
“I was one of those who criticized Koko when he is not asserting. As a leader of an institution, Pimentel should have been defending the Senate. But he keeps on saying he won’t budge on my call because he won’t wage a war with Alvarez,” the minority leader said.
“But I do not want them to fight each other. I just want him to defend the institution. So I think, that is one of the things Senator Sotto will make sure if he is the Senate leader and that is the difference,” Drilon said.
The Senate majority bloc is set to hold a caucus on Monday, May 21, to discuss the reported reorganization of the Upper Chamber’s leadership. A draft resolution expressing the sense of the Senate to reorganize its leadership and elect Sotto as the new Senate president has been signed by 15 senators over the weekend.
Senators Panfilo Lacson, Grace Poe, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito were among the senators who confirmed they signed the document.
But as to exactly when the transition will occur, will be discussed during the caucus, Ejercito said.
“But you know, at one point in time, he will have to step down, especially if we file our certificate of candidacy (COC). So eventually, Sen. Koko will have to relinquish his presidency. But the question is when,” Ejercito said in an interview over Radio DZBB.
“The only question is when. I hope they (Sotto and Pimentel) talk about it themselves,” the senator said.
Drilon, however, said the Minority Bloc will not dispute Sotto’s possible assumption as Senate chief.
“That is basically a concern of the majority bloc…I don’t expect any change in the thrust of the Senate,” he said. “We will continue to play the role of minority group. We will maintain our position as the opposition,” he added.
Drilon also rejected rumors that a member of the Minority will join the Majority Bloc.
“You know, we are only five in the group, our sixth member (Sen. Leila) de Lima is detained in Camp Crame. Three of the five are members of the Liberal Party. So I believe, as none of my colleagues are telling me, that it’s impossible that we break up as a group,” he pointed out.
Apart from Drilon and de Lima, other minority senators include Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV and Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV.
Hontiveros and Trillanes are not members of the LP.
But he said it is totally impossible for Hontiveros and Trillanes to join the Majority Bloc since they have been very vocal against the policies of the Duterte administration.
No qualms – Koko
Meanwhile, Pimentel reiterated yesterday that he has no qualms about relinquishing his post to Sotto.
Pimentel, an ally of Duterte and president of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban) party, made the assurance a day before the Senate is set to hold a caucus to discuss the possible leadership transition this week.
“No issue at all with me. Change will happen with my happy blessings. Change is coming soon,” Pimentel said in a text message.
Asked if he has any hard feelings, Pimentel said: “Syempre wala. Ganyan talaga ang buhay, dapat open to changes all the time.”