MANILA, Philippines – Will Sen Pia Cayetano take on the former job of her Reproductive Health (RH) critic Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III?
For weeks now, reports named Cayetano as an aspirant for Senate Majority Leader. Sotto held the post in the 15th Congress but resigned during the last session day.
In an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, July 10, Cayetano admitted that she and likely Senate President Franklin Drilon have talked about the position.
“I never eyed that position. I was assistant majority leader in my first term and I hated it,” she said in jest.
“Having said that, if I’m asked to do it, I will do it but I do not eye it.”
Asked if Drilon offered her the position, Cayetano said, “It has been discussed with me.”
A member of former Sen Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party (NP), Cayetano will be part of the incoming majority. The NP allied with the ruling Liberal Party (LP), of which Drilon is a stalwart.
A powerful position, the majority leader manages and schedules the legislative business of the Senate. He or she is in charge of the agenda, and is automatically the chairperson of the Committee on Rules.
The officers of the Senate are elected by a majority vote of all members or at least 13 senators.
If elected, Cayetano will work closely with Drilon, who she has collaborated with during the sin tax reform law debates. They are also pushing for the graphic warning on cigarettes bill.
Cayetano also said she is open to retaining her leadership of the Senate Committees on Health and Demography, and Youth, Women and Family Relations.
“I don’t mind having the same committees because I have so much passion for those committees. I also don’t mind a new challenge so it depends.”
“Nothing is final yet because everything affects the other. I don’t even know what preferences I gave at this point,” she added.
Last June, Sotto quit the post following the resignation of his staunch ally Sen Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate president. The two will be part of the minority.
Sotto said then, “Pagod na ako. Mahirap, napakahirap. (I’m tired. This is such a hard job.) I don’t think I can top the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears I put into the last 3 years into the next 3 years so let’s leave it at that. Sabi nga nila (As they say), quit while you’re ahead.”
In resigning, Sotto challenged the next majority to ensure a good attendance record, and to address questions about the Senate’s use of funds.
Two Cayetanos in leadership posts?
Cayetano’s brother and party mate, Sen Alan Peter Cayetano may also end up being a Senate leader. Reports said he is aspiring to be Senate President Pro-Tempore.
In past interviews, the younger Cayetano said he gave Drilon “sets of options” about his preferred committees and posts.
Newspaper reports said senators allied with the administration “raised eyebrows” with the possibility that both siblings will hold leadership posts.
In an interview last month, Sotto also questioned why the NP members should clinch the positions. He and Sen Pia Cayetano clashed over the RH law. Cayetano is the principal sponsor of the measure.
Sotto said, “Dapat ang mga opisyal ng Senado ay LP dahil sila ang timon sa coalition. Nanalo sila at sila ang uupong Senate President. Dapat hawak ng LP ang key positions sa Senado. ‘Pag NP ang may hawak ng leadership, marami ang magtataaas ng kilay at magtatanong, bakit kaya. Anong nangyari? Anyare?!”
(The officials of the next Senate should come from the LP because the LP is the leader of the coalition. They won and they will field the next Senate President. LP should hold the key positions. If it’s NP that holds the leadership, many will raise their eyebrows and ask why. What happened?)
Rivals in 2010, the NP and the LP forged a partnership in 2013 for the midterm polls. The NP agreed to field a common candidate with the LP for Senate President.
NP President Villar has refused to comment on reports about the Cayetanos.
“I will leave it to the individual senators to request for their individual demands. All other things being equal, I will support the desire of each NP senator. But not just because you demand it, it will be given to you. That will be discussed,” Villar said.
Villar though admitted that there have been “issues” in the NP members’ requests for committee chairmanships.
Sen Loren Legarda has said Drilon offered her to be Senate President Pro-Tempore but said she might accept it only “if absolutely necessary.”
The Senate will vote on its new officers when the 16th Congress opens on July 22. – Rappler.com