Senate President Drilon? It's all set, says LP

MANILA, Philippines - The next Senate President will most likely be Team PNoy campaign manager Sen Franklin Drilon, a senior official of the Liberal Party (LP) told Rappler.

What's being decided now are the committee heads and the majority floor leader, he added.

Negotiations between Drilon and individual senators started Tuesday, May 21, although Drilon has yet to talk to the party boss, President Benigno Aquino III, said the source. The President told reporters Tuesday he won't meddle in Senate affairs.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Drilon is a shoo-in for the presidency to replace Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, with the numbers in favor of his leadership.

Those expected to vote for Drilon are 12 of his colleagues:

1) Senator-elect Bam Aquino, LP
2) Sen Teofisto Guingona, LP
3) Sen Ralph Recto, LP
4) Sen Serge Osmeña, Independent
5) Senator-elect Sonny Angara, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino
6) Sen Koko Pimentel, PDP-Laban
7) Sen Antonio Trillanes IV, Nacionalista Party (NP)
8) Sen Pia Cayetano, NP
9) Sen Alan Cayetano, NP
10) Senator-elect Cynthia Villar, NP
11) Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago, People's Reform Party
12) Sen Lito Lapid, Lakas-Kampi-CMD

A minimum of 13 votes in the 24-person chamber are needed to elect a new Senate President. 

Aside from the LP senators who will obviously support their party mate, the administration will count on the support of its key allies in the Senate such as Osmeña, who helped several Team PNoy candidates in their campaigns. Angara and Pimentel have also told media they will back Drilon.

Even before the end of the 15th Congress, Trillanes voted to oust Enrile, while the two Cayetanos and Santiago are outspoken critics of the incumbent Senate President.

Villar, too, is expected to support Drilon's leadership, as an NP member who ran under the Team PNoy coalition. Lapid, whose son Mark works in the Department of Tourism as Chief Operating Officer, is also a likely vote for Drilon.

Coalition partners of Team PNoy are expected to back Drilon, especially because the parties agreed to hold the coalition together beyond the midterm elections.

Swing votes

The LP source also considered 5 senators who could vote either way.

Among them are Sen Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr of Lakas, Sen Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr of the NP, as well as senators Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) and Chiz Escudero (independent), whose votes are up in the air despite running under Team PNoy in the May 13 polls. Then there's the election topnotcher, Team PNoy bet Grace Poe, an independent.

Of the 5, Poe is the most likely senator to vote for Drilon, said the source.

On the other hand, 6 are expected to vote for Enrile. They are Sen Vicente Sotto III of NPC, Sen Jinggoy Estrada of PMP, independent Sen Gregorio Honasan, as well as senator-elect JV Ejercito of PMP and Nancy Binay of PDP-Laban.

Honasan, Ejercito and Binay all ran under the coalition of Enrile, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). Sotto is the current majority floor leader.

The votes for Drilon could then be as wide as 18-6, or as narrow as 13-11.

For the taking

Yet while the presidency of Drilon is a sure thing, the source confirmed there have been no formal offers to senators for committees and the positions are still open -- at least for now.

The source said those who commit to be among the first 13 to back Drilon will likely be more successful in demanding their committees of choice, rather than the 14th, 15th or other senators who will vote to support him.

According to the source, the leadership change in the Senate is expected to happen once the 16th Congress opens. But it could also take time depending on how soon Drilon is able to sort out the agreements and positions among the senators.

The Aquino administration wants control of the Senate to push for its pending reform agenda in its last 3 years in office. Enrile has voted against the government's key reform measures, such as the Reproductive Health law and sin tax law.

He however voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in December 2011 upon the President's orders. The Senate, sitting as an impeachment tribunal, convicted Corona on May 29, 2012.

The 16th Congress starts in July. - Rappler.com