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Koko Pimentel will be next Senate president – Drilon

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senate President Franklin Drilon confirmed on Wednesday, June 8, that 16 to 17 senators are now backing the Senate presidency of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

He revealed this agreement was finalized on Tuesday night, June 7.

"I wished to announce that last night the major political parties in the Senate have agreed to have an alliance, principally the Liberal Party and its allied parties. We have 6 LP members, 1 Akbayan, the LDP, plus the NPC and the other allied political groups. These two groupings: we led the one group, while Senator Sotto led the other group. Between the two of us, we have the support of 16 or 17 senators," Drilon said in a news briefing.

According to Drilon, he will be the new Senate President Pro Tempore while Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who earlier expressed intention to become Senate president, will be the majority floor leader.

Pimentel, in a text message to Rappler, confirmed this. "That's the agreement," he said.

Pimentel, partymate of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte in the Senate, earlier said it is his “duty” as PDP-Laban president to try to get the top leadership post in the chamber.

Earlier, Sotto, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and Pimentel confirmed that they are in unity talks. The NPC earlier signed a coalition agreement with the PDP-Laban.

Senator-elect Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, for his part, posted on his Twitter page on Tuesday that they are eyeing a "super majority" composed of at least 20 senators.

"16th Congress adjourned, getting ready for 17th: SP Pimentel, Pro temp Drilon, Majority Ldr Sotto plus a super majority of at least 20," Lacson said.

'Independent Senate'

Pimentel is set to be the next Senate president despite being the only PDP-Laban senator. The senators, Drilon said, wanted to provide stability to the leadership of the Senate. After all, he said, Duterte has the mandate of the people.

While he said the Senate would support the legislative agenda of Duterte, Drilon maintained the chamber would remain independent.

"We maintain the independence of the Senate but at the same time, we will support, in general, the legislative agenda of President Duterte," Drilon said.

He added: "As you notice, Senator Koko Pimentel is the only PDP-Laban senator but yet, he will be the Senate President. This is an unusual….Certainly in the recent memory I do not recall of a similar setup. This is to show that yes, we are willing to support, in general, the legislative agenda of this administration."

Aside from Sotto and Pimentel, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano – running mate of Duterte – also said he is eyeing the Senate presidency.

Cayetano earlier released a resolution to be signed by senators who wish to support him. So far, only senator-elect Manny Pacquiao, supposedly another member of the "super majority," had reportedly signed it. – with a report from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com