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Why Koko over Alan? Sotto points to Cayetano's restrictions

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III disclosed on Wednesday, June 15, why majority of the senators preferred Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano as the next Senate president.

Sotto said Cayetano, during the meetings, gave them restrictions on committee leaderships. This, Sotto said, did not sit well with his group of 8 senators.

“Kinausap niya kami kaya lang during that time, to be very candid about it, meron na siya agad positions na ‘si ganito, si ganyan’. ‘Sa position na ito, di puwede kay ganito, kay ganyan.’ Ganun dating nya,” Sotto told reporters during a press conference.

(He talked to us during that time. To be very candid about it, he already had positions in mind like, "This senator would get this committee or that senator would get that committee." "For this position, this senator should not get it." That's how it appeared.)

Sotto said Cayetano’s group does not want incoming Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson as chairman of the public order committee, Senator Loren Legarda as head of the finance committee, and Senator-elect Manny Pacquiao as chairman of the committee on games and amusements.

Instead, they want Senator JV Ejercito as chair of the public order committee and Senator Cynthia Villar, Cayetano's party mate in the Nacionalista Party, as head of the finance committee.

Cayetano earlier hinted he does not want Senator-elect Leila De Lima to head the justice committee. Like Lacson, De Lima is a known critic of President-elect Duterte.

“So when we went back to our group, they were not excited about it, not happy about that kind of situation. We decided to explore other possibilities,” he added.

After meeting with Cayetano, Sotto’s group then began talks with incumbent Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Sotto described the meeting with Drilon’s group as smooth-sailing. Unlike Cayetano, Drilon’s team hardly had restrictions. In the end, the groups of Sotto and Drilon merged to support Pimentel for Senate President.

Under the revamp, Drilon will be the Senate President Pro-tempore, while Sotto will be the new Majority Floor Leader.

“When we talked to them, there was not much conflict. No conflict at all. No do’s and don’t’s. They had preferences for their advocacies, that was it. Kung may conflict, isa o dalawa. (If there was conflict, just one or two.) It was easier,” Sotto recalled.

So far, Sotto said there are 14 signatures on the resolution electing Pimentel as Senate President. Only 13 signatures are needed to change the chamber’s leadership.

Senators Ralph Recto and Joel Villanueva, allied with the Liberal Party, are not yet included in the list. Sotto said the two have yet to decide on whom to support.

Duterte not interfering with Senate leadership

Despite the heated Senate presidential race, Sotto expects no interference from Duterte. After all, the senator said he is banking on Duterte’s own pronouncements that he would not meddle with the affairs of the Senate.

For Sotto, Duterte might have heard the voice of the people through senatorial results, wherein 7 out of the 12 winners come from the slate of administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.

“Ang narinig ko kay President Duterte sa media, nainterview minsan (ay) ayaw nya makialam sa Senate leadership. I think he knows he wants to preserve the independence of the Senate. Pag nakinig ka sa sinabi ng tao...7 sa 12 nasa line-up ni Mar Roxas. No one from the line-up of PDP-Laban, siguro alam niya yon,” Sotto said.

(What I heard from President Duterte in the media when he was interviewed is that he does not want to meddle with the Senate leadership. I think he knows he wants to preserve the independence of the Senate. If you will listen to the voice of the people...7 out of the 12 new senators were in the line-up of Mar Roxas. No one from the line-up of PDP-Laban, maybe he knows that.)

“I had a chance to talk to incoming House Speaker Bebot Alvarez. Senator Honasan has had a dialogue with some of the leaders of President Duterte, even Senator Lacson. And he has expressed no desire to infuse something, anything on the Senate leadership. Wala kaming narinig sa kanya na ganoon (We did not hear anything like that from him),” he said.

As for Cayetano, who remains relentless in getting the top post, it would be “better” if he and his group would join the majority, Sotto said.

“It would be better if his group would join the majority. What would they want to do, go to the minority? And do what?” Sotto said.

“If majority is working for the legislative agenda of the administration of President Duterte, akala ko kakampi kayo? Bakit kayo kokontra? Bakit kayo magiging minority? (I thought you're allies? Why would you object? Why would you become minority?)” he added. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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