A Drilon-Cayetano rivalry for Senate head not far-fetched


Nobody should be surprised if Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party will contest the Senate presidency in the upcoming 16th Congress with Sen. Franklin Drilon of the ruling Liberal Party.

Sure, Sen. Manny Villar, top honcho of the NP, has already given assurances that Nacionalistas and the Liberals in the Senate will have a common candidate. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that no NP would make a stab at the top post of the chamber—and the most likely nominee would be Senator Alan.

The NP will be the biggest party in the Senate majority coalition of the 16th Congress with five members—Pia Cayetano, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Antonio Trillanes 4th, Cynthia Villar, and Alan. In contrast, the LP will only have Senators TG Guingona, Bam Aquino, and Drilon. If we go by numbers, then it’s logical for the NP to nominate a member for  SP. All it has to do is convince eight more senators to support its nominee.

Senator Alan’s going against Senator Frank for the majority coalition’s lone nominee for SP would be a repeat of the contest between his late father Rene and Senator Frank for the same post in the 12th Congress. Actually, there were three aspirants from the majority then for the Senate presidency—Frank, Rene, and Manny Villar. A straw vote of majority senators saw Rene and Manny tied for Number 1. A Senate source said that then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo intervened and asked both Manny and Rene to give way to Frank who was last in the straw voting. This should lay to rest the myth that Malacañang has always kept its hands off the issue of Senate leadership.

Manny Villar yielded to GMA’s request to give way to Frank. Rene also acquiesced but on condition that he’ll be the SP after 18 months. This highly reliable source said a gentleman’s agreement was then forged between Rene and Frank. The supposed term-sharing never took place. When the 18th month was nearing, some senators including Kiko Pangilinan and Rodolfo Biazon said they were not parties to the agreement and wanted any change in leadership to be a collective decision ratified on the floor. When Rene suffered from terminal cancer, there were calls for Senator Frank and other majority senators honor him by electing him SP. Rene died without tasting even a day at the post he had let go conditionally.

In the next Congress, a Drilon-Cayetano contest is again possible. I’ll be surprised if Senator Alan won’t gun for the Senate presidency considering the big number of Nacionalistas in the chamber. Of course, this contest will be confined to the majority caucus and once a straw vote has chosen the nominee, then only that senator will be nominated on the floor.

Everybody knows that Senator Frank is the fair-haired boy of Malacanang, making him the odds-on-favorite to win. He was not so in the 15th Congress when he and fellow LP Sen. Kiko Pangilinan both aspired to become SP. With a Liberal in Malacanang, both were hopeful of getting the nod of the Senate majority. However, neither could get the needed 13 votes so Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was again picked as compromise candidate. Sources said that Senator Frank accompanied JPE to Malacañang for a meeting with President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd before JPE was reelected SP.

Incidentally, acting SP Jinggoy Estrada erred in saying that in the 15th Congress, there was no voting and Senator Alan was merely placed there as minority leader. The original plan was to elect JPE by acclamation but the maverick Sen. Joker Arroyo rejected this. By tradition, all who vote for the SP belongs to the majority so who will then comprise the minority? Senator Joker said that if JPE would be unopposed, then the Senate minority would be a “company union.” Thus, he went on to nominate Senator Alan as SP against JPE. Actual voting did take place on the floor.

Either Senator Frank or Senator Alan is expected to keep in step with Malacañang. When President BS Aquino delivered his first State of the Nation Address, Senator Alan, as minority leader, gave the traditional “contra-SONA” speech. Well, that speech was anything but “contra.” That should take care of questions about his leanings regarding President BS Aquino. There are no such questions on Senator Frank. He sponsored the Malacanang-certified bill resetting the election of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Min­danao when Sen. Bongbong Mar­­cos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Governments, hesitated to do so. He also took over the sponsorship of the priority bill amending the sin tax law after the resignation of Sen. Ralph Recto as chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.



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