A scramble for prime legislative posts is shaping up in the Senate, with incumbents looking to hold off challenges from first-timers, reelectionists and comebackers.
Committees likely to be the focus of leadership battles once the 18th Congress opens on July 22 include the Blue Ribbon, Justice, Education, Health and Public Services panels.
“Well, they should try and get it if they can get it,” incumbent Blue Ribbon Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said.
Sen. Mary Grace Poe, who won a fresh six-year mandate in the May 13 elections, and freshman Sen. Francis Tolentino were reportedly interested in Gordon’s committee.
Poe quipped that because she was an independent, it would be best if she got the Blue Ribbon panel.
Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, who is expected to also face a challenge from legislators backed by the government during the recent elections, on Wednesday acknowledged the problem of apportioning committee chairmanships.
Noting that the incumbents — those elected to six-year terms in 2016 — “had a chance to be elected to the different committees that they [currently] handle,” Sotto said, “there is a tradition in the Senate that we call the equity of the incumbent in choosing the [committee] chairmanships.”
On the other hand, he added, “There are new senators and some comebacking senators… there were five reelectionists that won and most of them have their own committees already when they were there as incumbents from the 17th Congress.”
“Now, we must practice what we call a consensus-building or the art of compromise because the newcomers would want some major committees and most of these major committees are being handled by incumbent senators. That is where the problem lies,” Sotto continued.
“We have to talk to those who would be willing to forego their committees and offer another committee. That’s how it works. It’s not an easy job and it is not left to the discretion of the Senate president, contrary to what others [have] said. It is always the members of the majority that vote for the chairman.”
Aside from Gordon and Sotto, the other incumbents are Franklin Drilon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Ana Theresia Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Leila de Lima, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Emmanuel Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Joining Poe among those reelected, meanwhile, are Juan Edgardo Angara, Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and Cynthia Villar.
Making their Senate comebacks are Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Manuel Lapid and Ramon Revilla Jr., while the first-timers are Tolentino, Christopher Lawrence Go, Maria Imelda Josefa Marcos and Ronald dela Rosa.
With the exception of Poe, Binay and Lapid, all incoming senators were backed by the administration-linked Hugpong ng Pagbabago party, which is expected to lead a challenge for the top Senate posts.
Cayetano and Gatchalian are both eyeing the Education committee chairmanship, Go is interested in leading the Health panel, while Lacson has already said he would be giving the Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee to dela Rosa.
Poe, who is willing to give up the Public Services Committee if offered the Blue Ribbon panel, said she would “not insist… out of respect to Sen. Gordon.”
She also acknowledged the possibility of Sotto’s ouster, raising the prospect of both of them joining the minority bloc.
“Sa tingin ko kapag pinalitan talaga si Sen. Sotto, may banta talaga na may mga iba na hindi sasanib doon sa mayorya. Kung lilipat si Sen. Sotto sa minority, sasama na lang ako (I think that if Sen. Sotto is replaced, there is a real threat that some of us will not join the majority. If Sotto moves to the minority, I will join him there.),” Poe said. (TMT)