MANILA, Philippines – Juan Ponce Enrile may lose the Senate presidency but his allies will stand by him in what they call the new “constructive minority.”
Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada told Rappler the so-called macho bloc will still support Enrile for Senate President in the 16th Congress even if he will likely lose the post to Sen Franklin Drilon.
“We will field him and nominate him for the Senate presidency but of course, we do not have the numbers. He will automatically become the minority floor leader,” Estrada said in an interview in Quezon City on Tuesday, June 4.
Estrada said he already told Drilon about his position when the Liberal Party (LP) stalwart sought a meeting with him on Monday, June 3.
Drilon met with Estrada after Enrile gave him (Drilon) the go signal to court members of his bloc, which also includes Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Sen Gregorio Honasan II.
Estrada recounted his conversation with Drilon.
“I said I already gave a lot of pronouncements publicly and privately that if Senate President Enrile will go down, I will go down with him. I will go where Manong Johnny goes. I will go with him in the minority and he readily understood my position,” said Enrile’s close ally.
Estrada has expressed interest in becoming minority leader but is backing down.
“Of course in deference to Manong Johnny, I will give way because he’s also interested.”
He added, “Being the junior between the two of us, I will give way, no questions asked. He’s my mentor. Bakit ko siya aawayin?” (Why will I compete with him?)
Estrada said though that the Enrile bloc will still meet next week to finalize their plans for the 16th Congress. Some members of the group are still out of the country.
Drilon is expected to be the next Senate leader, having secured at least 13 votes needed for the post.
The Nacionalista Party (NP) of Sen Manny Villar agreed to field a common candidate with the LP for the Senate presidency. Drilon and Villar met last week to discuss the matter.
Drilon also met with Enrile last week, with the Senate leader saying he will not object if Drilon seeks the support of his bloc members.
A staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III, Drilon was campaign manager of the administration slate Team PNoy, leading the group to a 9-3 victory. He was Senate President in 2000, and 2001-2006.
Committees discussed with Drilon
Estrada also weighed in on Enrile’s scheduled privilege speech at the resumption of session on Wednesday, June 5. The subject of the speech is still unknown.
“Maybe he’s going to narrate what happened during the last elections or probably he would want to thank his colleagues for electing him as Senate President several years back. That is what I suspect.”
In his meeting with Drilon, Estrada said the likely Senate President asked him what committee he wanted to head.
“I said if I can just retain my committee chairmanship of the Committee on Labor. He said okay. In fairness to him, he was very accommodating.”
Estrada said he already expected that the macho bloc will not get the choice committees.
“We have no right to demand committees unless we join the majority and in my case, I do not have any intentions of abandoning my boss,” he stressed.
Estrada said the Drilon meeting was similar to the conversation they had when he was still a neophyte senator.
“It was reminiscent of the meeting in 2004. It was Gloria [Macapagal-Arroyo] who was president and I was automatically in the minority. He went to my house and I said, ‘Sen Frank, I cannot join you because I’m very critical of this administration and he understood my position.’”
This time though, Estrada clarified that he is not critical of the Aquino administration but turned down Drilon because of his support for Enrile.
‘More minority than current minority’
Estrada also echoed Enrile, saying that their bloc and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will be a “constructive opposition” in the Senate. Besides the macho bloc, senators-elect Nancy Binay and JV Ejercito are expected to join the minority.
“We will scrutinize all the bills passed into law. We’ll be active in debates, in interpellating but we will not be destructive, that I can assure this administration,” he said.
Estrada said compared to the current minority headed by Sen Alan Peter Cayetano, his group will be “more minority than the minority.”
“The minority now is not really a minority because when we elected the Senate President, almost everyone supported him. Our count was beyond the required votes. Even Pia and Alan were supposed to be with the majority. Now, we are just few.”
“We will not support the candidacy of Sen Drilon. We will support the candidacy of Sen Enrile that’s why we’re in the minority,” he said.
Will they eventually regain hold of the chamber?
Estrada said, “My prediction is their coalition might disintegrate. Baka mag-divorce na rin sila eventually. Once they divorce, baka pati ang mga coalition sa Senado, mag-disintegrate na rin iyan.”
(They might eventually divorce. Once they do, maybe their coalition in the Senate will also disintegrate.) – Rappler.com