MANILA, Philippines – Will the supposed campaign rivalry between Senators Loren Legarda and Alan Peter Cayetano extend to the 16th Congress?
Legarda said she is open to becoming Senate President Pro-Tempore in the new Congress, a post Cayetano is also reportedly eyeing.
Legarda said incoming Senate President Franklin Drilon offered her the position and she is considering it.
“I can live without it pero kung nandiyan at kung kailangan ay I’m not applying for it. I don’t need it pero kung kailangang-kailangan, maaaring i-reconsider,” Legarda told reporters on Tuesday, June 18. (But if it’s already there and they need me even if I’m not applying for it and if it’s absolutely necessary, I can reconsider.)
She said the issue was brought up in several conversations with Drilon. Legarda said she suggested to Drilon to also consider Senators Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III and Teofisto “TG” Guingona III for the post.
“He told me to think about it. I said, ‘I can live without it,’” Legarda added. “I cannot turn it down if I am voted. However if it’s somebody else, I would support.”
Legarda said she is not actively pursuing the post, having already been Senate Majority Leader from 2001 to 2004 under a Drilon Senate presidency.
She has turned down Drilon’s offer to be Majority Leader in the 16th Congress, saying “Been there, done that.”
This time though Legarda is more receptive to being Drilon’s deputy.
“’Di ko masidhing [hinihingi] pero kung kailangang-kailangan, ‘di ako tatalikod sa trabaho pero gusto ko mag-focus sa aking committee work.” (I do not want it badly but if it’s really necessary, I will not turn my back on the job but I want to focus on my committee work.)
The Senate President Pro-Tempore discharges the powers and duties of the Senate President in cases of absences, temporary incapacity, resignation, removal or death. He or she is elected by a majority vote of all 24 senators.
The 16th Congress opens on July 22.
Enrile-led minority backs Loren
Newspaper reports named Cayetano as another contender for the position. Unlike him though, Legarda has the backing of the incoming Senate minority headed by resigned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Legarda said members of Enrile’s so-called macho bloc expressed support for her.
“They said they hoped I will accept it,” Legarda said.
The new minority is expected to be composed of Senators Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Gregorio Honasan II, JV Ejercito, and Nancy Binay.
Cayetano got into a word war with Enrile over the Senate fund controversy last January. In contrast, Legarda enjoys good ties with the new minority, and was even initially a guest candidate of Enrile’s opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Asked who should hold the post, Legarda said, “Dapat komportable ang leadership at ang colleagues. Somebody who has the diligence, competence, the respect and acceptability of everyone. Dapat komportable ang Senate President, majority, minority.”
(The leadership and our colleagues should be comfortable with the person. The Senate President, majority and minority should be comfortable with the leader.)
Cayetano, incumbent Senate Minority Leader, is the secretary-general of the Nacionalista Party (NP). For the midterm polls, the NP entered into a partnership with Drilon’s ruling Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), of which Legarda is a member.
Cayetano and Legarda ran for re-election under the administration slate Team PNoy, with Drilon as campaign manager.
The two had a spat when Legarda accused a publicist associated with Cayetano of orchestrating a media campaign to pull down her survey numbers. Lawyer Louis Biraogo charged Legarda of failing to accurately declare a posh New York condominium.
Legarda branded it as black propaganda and hinted that Cayetano was behind the smear campaign. Yet the two have since played down the issue, saying they moved on.
‘Metro Manila now a water world’
While she is open to becoming Senate President Pro-Tempore, Legarda told Drilon she prefers to head the Committees on Environment and Climate Change.
With rain and floods causing a standstill in Metro Manila in past weeks, Legarda said she plans to lead an environmental audit in the 16th Congress.
She said the audit will be under the oversight committees on the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Solid Waste Management Act. The senator is the author of these laws.
Besides these measures, Legarda also wants to check on the implementation of the Climate Change Act, the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, and Renewable Energy Act.
“We will ask each agency responsible for [the implementation of these laws] and we will not blame them because the local government units also have a role. We all do. We will audit the implementation of the laws, and see what the roadblocks are, why we can’t implement them and what needs to be done,” Legarda said.
Among the agencies Legarda plans to invite to the audit are the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Public Works and Highways, Education, Health, Agriculture, Science and Technology, the Metro Manila Development Authority, Climate Change Commission, and the Leagues of Municipalities, Cities, Provinces, and Barangays.
Legarda added that the flooding highlights the need to make disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation a national security issue.
“We are already a water world. Let us not treat our rivers as trash bins. Let each LGU be responsible for [its] own backyard, segregate its own garbage, take care of its own trees and rivers.”
In her new term, Legarda said she will focus on the distribution of geohazard maps to local government units, pushing for the creation of so-called green and cultural jobs, and conducting barangay disaster resilience programs.
The senator said she will file and re-file bills like:
- a crop insurance bill to help farmers and fishermen deal with damage from disasters
- the River Basin Administration Act to protect waterways
- National Land Use Act
- Malunggay Development Act
- Soil and Water Conservation Act
- a bill creating a body to coordinate and oversee the work of 30 water agencies.
“These are all poverty alleviation measures …. If we do not implement effective programs, we cannot mitigate the challenge of nature. Adaptation means survival,” she added. – Rappler.com