Koko Pimentel resigns as Senate president

Camille Elemia
Koko Pimentel resigns as Senate president
(3rd UPDATE) Aquilino Pimentel III nominates Vicente Sotto III as his successor, saying, 'This is an example of a peaceful and willing transfer of power in the Senate'

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III resigned from his post ahead of a looming reorganization that would remove him as the chamber’s leader. (READ: Koko Pimentel: His father’s son, the President’s ‘protector’)

Pimentel announced his decision in a press conference on Monday, May 21, a few hours before the expected change.

He also nominated Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III to succeed him as leader of the chamber.

“It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve the Senate as its president, a position once held by my father…. It was his example I had tried to emulate during my time at the helm of the Senate,” said Pimentel.

“I step down knowing that I tried my best to do this. I wish my successor, Senator Sotto, good health and Godspeed, and pledge to help the new leadership pass pro-people legislation consistent with the legislative agenda of the President.”

His resignation came after a draft resolution electing Sotto as new Senate president surfaced last Thursday, May 17.

Long-planned leadership change

Early on in the 17th Congress, Pimentel and Sotto were known to have agreed to a term-sharing agreement. Two well-placed sources told Rappler that Pimentel was set to give up his post in favor of Sotto so he could focus on his reelection bid. Pimentel indirectly confirmed this in an interview with Rappler in August 2017.

He also confirmed on Monday that the change in Senate leadership had long been planned.

“Matagal namin ‘to pinag-usapan ni Senator Sotto na darating ang time na siya na po ang Senate president,” Pimentel said.

(Senator Sotto and I have long discussed that there would come a time that he would be Senate president.)

“This is an example of a peaceful and willing transfer of power in the Senate,” he added.

Pimentel on Sunday, May 20, had said he is ready to face the change in leadership.

“No issue at all [with me]. Change will happen with my happy blessings. Change is coming soon,” he said, in an apparent reference to the tagline of President Rodrigo Duterte, his party mate.

What’s next?

In a separate press briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque thanked Pimentel. He also said Malacañang would support Pimentel’s successor.

“We know we had landmark legislation enacted during his term of office. [These include] the free tuition for all state universities and colleges, free irrigation, and others,” Roque said.

“Whoever the senators may choose as their Senate president, we assure the incoming Senate president of our willingness to work with him as we recognize that whoever the new Senate president will be would also be a close ally of the Palace.”

As Senate president, Pimentel served as ex-officio member of all committees. But now that he has quit, he must be a chairman of a committee, which has yet to be finalized.

“I am a very flexible person. Whatever the majority gives me or the new SP assigns to me, I will gladly accept. I have missed committee work the past year and 9 months,” he earlier said.

Pimentel had served as the Senate’s top leader since July 25, 2016, or the opening of the 17th Congress. His election to the post made him and his father, former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr, the first ever father and son to become leaders of the chamber.

On the change in Senate leadership, the younger Pimentel said his father told him: “Quickly, sabi niya (he said). That’s how it should be done – willingly and quickly.”

Pimentel is set to seek reelection in 2019. He said he would now focus on preparing PDP-Laban for the 2019 elections. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com