‘Hugpong’ bloc seen to form in Senate

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate is abuzz with the news that a "Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) bloc" is in the offing.

This possibility was floated Friday after reports quoting senator-elect Francis Tolentino said at least nine senators from the Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and those endorsed by the Sara Duterte-led HNP will coalesce ahead of the opening of the 18th Congress.

The coalition will reportedly meet in June to discuss their legislative priorities.

"Mag-uusap pa kasi 'yong partido, 'yong PDP, 'yong HNP, si Mayor Inday (Sara Duterte)," Tolentino was also quoted telling reporters when asked about his preferred Senate committees during the proclamation of winning senators in PICC Wednesday.

Francis Tolentino (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN) Francis Tolentino (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

But reelected Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said he was not aware of such a plan.

"I have no idea what Francis is talking about," the PDP-Laban president said in a text message Friday.

"Maybe he (Tolentino) will soon tell me about his ideas," he added, describing the former presidential political adviser as a "political strategist."

Come the 18th Congress, neophyte lawmakers Tolentino, Christopher "Bong" Go and Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa will add to the two PDP-Laban members already in the Senate, Pimentel and Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

Senators-elect Imee Marcos and Pia Cayetano will also augment the force of administration-allied Nacionalista Party, whose Sen. Cynthia Villar topped the May 13 senatorial race.

Former Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. of the Lakas-CMD will also be coming back to the Upper Chamber after he was acquitted last year of plunder charges relating to the pork barrel controversy.

Duterte campaigned for these men and women in the senatorial polls, including reelected Sen. Sonny Angara.

Asked to comment, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he sees nothing wrong with the supposed creation of an "HNP bloc".

"That's good for them. Coalitions are always good if it’s for the good of the country," Sotto said in a text message.

He added that no one has so far expressed interest to replace him as the Senate president.

"And I'm not worried if ever, because I only serve at the pleasure of the majority," he noted.

Pimentel, earlier, said the PDP-Laban will continue to support Sotto's leadership.

Last Monday, May 20, incumbent majority bloc senators agreed to retain the current Senate leadership in the 18th Congress.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said they expect 20 senators from the new set of Senate members to back Sotto.