Senate of the Philippines

Who will replace Tolentino as Senate blue ribbon chair?

Bonz Magsambol

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Who will replace Tolentino as Senate blue ribbon chair?

File photo of Senator Francis Tolentino

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Senator Francis Tolentino says he's quitting the committee to focus on preparations for his reelection bid in the 2025 elections

No reelection campaign is too far off for a politician to delay preparing for it, as election players often say.

And Senator Francis Tolentino apparently knows that.

On Tuesday, December 19, Tolentino announced to reporters that he would be stepping down as chairperson of the Senate blue ribbon committee and as a member of the Commission on Appointments. His reasons? To prepare for his reelection bid in 2025 and to honor his supposed deal with fellow senators to not stay too long in his blue ribbon post.

“I find it both a duty and an honor to uphold the essence of a prior agreement,” Tolentino said in a briefing. “This decision is rooted in a deep-seated belief that public office demands fidelity to pledges made.”

The senator said that he accepted the blue ribbon committee chairmanship to help the Marcos administration and the leadership of Senate President Migz Zubiri in various investigations. He added that the agreement included that he would only serve for a year and a half.

“Ang pagtupad sa kasunduan ay nakabatay sa aking malalim na paniniwala na ang pangako na maglingkod ng maikling panahon ay isang sagradong tungkulin sa paglilingkod sa bayan na dapat tuparin. It is my intention to honor an agreement,” Tolentino said. (To honor a deal is based on my principle that the promise to serve in a short period of time is a sacred service to the country that needs to be fulfilled.)

Because of this recent development, Tolentino will only have two chairmanships: the justice committee and the special committee on Philippine maritime and admiralty zones.

On Tolentino’s watch, the committee probed the anomalous deals of the Department of Education in its procurement of “overpriced and outdated” laptops. The panel’s inquiry into sugar importation also led to resignation of some officials. He also said that a bill had been filed to abolish the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management, which entered into questionable deals during the pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, December 20, Zubiri said that he accepts Tolentino’s decision “with utmost respect and understanding.”

“Sen. Tolentino’s leadership of the Blue Ribbon Committee has been an efficient and productive one, and under his capable hands, the panel has effectively exercised its power and mandate to investigate in aid of legislation matters involving the accountability of public officers,” he said.

So who’s gonna replace Tolentino?

As of this writing, no name had been announced yet, but Zubiri said the following senators were being considered: Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Alan Cayetano, and Chiz Escudero. All four are lawyers.

Tolentino will serve until a new Senate blue ribbon committee chair is named, and vowed to help during the transition.

The Senate is currently on break and will resume on January 22, 2024. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.