By Catherine S. Valente, Llanesca T. Panti and Jefferson Antiporda Reporters
FORT SAN FELIPE, Cavite City: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday said that he will not in any way interfere in the business of the Senate, including the election of the chamber’s new leader.
He issued the statement following reports that the Liberal Party’s Sen. Franklin Drilon is the obvious candidate to replace Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile.
The President said he will allow senators to choose their next leader.
“Baka naman dapat tanungin natin ‘yung mga senador, baka sabihin nila nakikialam ako sa independent co-equal branch, ano [Maybe we should ask the senators because they might say I am interfering with an independent co-equal branch],” he said
“Hintayin na lang natin ‘yung kanilang mga deklarasyon [Let’s wait for their declaration],” the President added.
But Drilon said that until a senator is assured of getting the needed 13 votes to clinch the Senate top post, there is no assurance as to who will be the next Senate president.
Reelected Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd and Antonio Trillanes 4th, and newcomers Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th have vowed to support Drilon if he will seek the Senate presidency.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan 3rd, who placed 12th in this year’s senatorial race, said there’s no guarantee that all senators from the administration Team PNoy would elect a new Senate president from their ranks.
Drilon, in an interview aired over DZMM, admitted that he had not discussed the issue with any senator.
He said that based on his experience, the Senate majority usually finalizes its choice on the eve of the opening of the legislative session.
The Nacionalista Party (NP) led by outgoing Sen. Manuel Villar has yet to commit its support to Drilon, according to senator-elect Cynthia Villar.
“We haven’t talked about it [Drilon’s bid for Senate Presidency] but I don’t see any problem. We foresee that the [next]Senate President will come from the administration, considering there are many pro-administration senators from both the incumbents and the newly-elected,” Mrs. Villar said.
Sen. Miriam Santiago has earlier predicted that the Senate presidency will be a toss-up between Drilon and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
But for reelected Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Drilon won’t face a tough challenge.
Pimentel said Drilon can corner 16 votes at the most, counting the nine Team PNoy Senators and the incumbents—Pia Cayetano, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Santiago, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Ralph Recto and and Serge Osmena 3rd.
“Senator Cayetano will be a choice, but I think being the younger senator, he can easily be persuaded to support Senator Drilon. It is okay for the 16 votes not to be so solid. There is allowance of three votes and it is a big allowance, give or take three senators,” Pimentel said.
“I know Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. He’s a very reasonable person,” he added.