By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday maintained that the senators’ dispute over the chairmanship of committees is almost settled.
“As I said, [we are] 97.5 percent done with comm[ittee] chair[manships],” Sotto said in a text message.
The Senate chief issued the statement as he downplayed reports that the issue on the Senate committees remains unsolved.
A report from ABS-CBN News on Wednesday said that at least three senators endorsed by the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) regional party are still gunning for the chairmanship of the committees on education, arts and culture; constitutional amendments and revision of codes; and electoral reforms and people’s participation.
Sotto earlier bared that the remaining contentions include the education committee after three senators expressed interest to handle it.
He said Senator Pia Cayetano was eyeing to lead the committee, along with Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva.
Gatchalian, following a meeting of 18th Congress majority bloc senators, then said there is a possibility that panel would be split into two: the Basic Education committee which he might lead, and the Higher Education and Skills Training committee for Villanueva.
But Cayetano had “reservations” on this, according to Villanueva.
In a series of text messages later in the afternoon, Sotto bared that Cayetano already conceded in her bid for the education committee chairmanship. She, instead, accepted the offer to lead the committee on ways and means, which handles tax measures.
“Sen. Pia Cayetano just made my life easier, she has agreed to be elected as Ways and Means committee chair!” he confirmed to Senate reporters.
Asked to clarfiy if the returning senator gave up her interest in the education panel, Sotto said, “Acquiesce would best describe her thinking, not give up.”
Anyway, Sotto said Cayetano, being a veteran senator, can “catalyze her education visions thru other committees and in plenary.”
On the constitutional amendments committee, ABS-CBN reported that HNP is touting neophyte Sen. Francis Tolentino as a replacement to its current chairman, opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan. This was to allegedly push the administration’s planned shift to federalism.
While he did not name names, Sotto on Thursday confirmed that “There is interest in it now but it falls in the category of incumbents equity.”
Sotto had said that the chairmanship of constitutional amendments panel will remain with Pangilinan.
“I told the parties involved that we can talk about it later on,” the Senate chief said.
The committee on electoral reforms, meanwhile, might to go to Sen. Imee Marcos, although Sen. Panfilo Lacson also raised interest in handling it to investigate on the issues with Smartmatic.
The 18th Congress will open on July 22.
Sotto said they will try to resolve the remaining “2.5 percent” of committee chairmanship issue after the opening of their sessions.