LP faces pressure for committee seats

Former Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd

Former Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd

SEVERAL lawmakers on Monday agreed with the observations of political analysts that the administration coalition could splinter by 2014.

Former Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said the coalition must address the distribution of Senate committees, considering that the Nacionalista Party (NP) outnumbers the Liberal Party (LP) in the chamber.

Sotto said he received information that the NP bloc has a set of demands to the incoming Senate leadership and failure to meet the demands could damage the relationship among coalition members.

Of the 16 senators who are expected to support the administration coalition, five are from NP, four from LP, and the rest belong to other parties.

In an earlier interview, Sotto admitted talking to Senator Manny Villar, head of NP and assuring him the party will remain loyal to the coalition.

But such assurance, according to a Senate insider, will depend on how the administration party will accommodate the NP senators in the 16th Congress.

The insider said NP knows that it has the numbers and it would make sure that its senators will get the choice posts.

Sotto said the coalition maybe solid at present but cracks could surface once the session begins next month.

NP Sen. Ferdinand Marcos doubts the coalition can stay together until 2014.

He said just like past political alliances, the LP-led coalition may soon be dissolved since every senator has his or her own position on various issues.

He said one looming source of conflict is the distribution of committee chairmanships.

Marcos said there are 39 regular committees and 35 oversight committees and chances are all incumbent senators will be given a committee chairmanship. But only a few will get the plum posts.

As for the opposition, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th of the NP believes that the bloc would focus on legislative works for the first two years of the 16th Congress. Trillanes noted that the results of the 2013 elections showed how popular President Benigno Aquino 3rd is, and going against a well-liked leader would not be wise. He hinted, however, that the opposition would take steps in preparation for the 2016 presidential elections.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay, and Vicente Sotto 3rd are expected to join the opposition bloc.

Getting ready for 2016
The United Nationalist Alliance will go toe to toe with the Aquino administration by the middle of 2014 as it revs up for Vice President Jejomar Binay’s presidential run in 2016, a House leader said on Monday.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez of Quezon revealed UNA’s battle plan in reaction to the predictions of political analysts Prospero de Vera and Bobby Tuazon of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance that congressional support for President Aquino will hold only until 2014 because politicians would be busy preparing for the 2016 derby after that.

“In fact, the support won’t last longer than in the middle of 2014. UNA will be the first one to break away because it is the political party of Jojo. He would have to throw mud, criticism and black propaganda in preparation for his presidential run,” Suarez told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

UNA, which is led by Vice President Binay, Manila Mayor-elect Joseph Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, fielded a nine-candidate Senate ticket in the May elections. Only Binay’s daughter Nancy, Estrada’s son and Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito of San Juan and reelectionist Gregorio Honasan made it.

Suarez said the LP, the lead party in the coalition, “is strong only because the President is popular. That is the only thing they can crow about.”

The President’s popularity “makes him highly-acceptable to politicians. But by next year, it [support for the President]will really depend on the accusations and charges on his administration,” Suarez pointed out.

With the LP in Team PNoy are the Nacionalista Party (NP), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and Akbayan party.

NP is led by outgoing Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., while NPC is chaired President Aquino’s uncle, Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

“UNA will be followed by NP [in pulling out support for the President]. This is the tricky part because I see the relationship of LP-NP going extremes: either they align together or they field separate slates. NP is not a party which would only watch on the side, unlike the NPC,” Suarez said.

House Assistant Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list agreed with Suarez, saying that politicians go into political survival mode as elections draw near.

“That is the political reality. Politicians gravitate to the party which is likely to be the next winner in the next national and local elections,” Tugna, a lawyer, said in a text message.

“But I see the President enjoying the support of more than a majority of Congress in the coming years because he still sports a high trust rating on top of the fact that the government budget which is at the executive department’s wherewithal,” Tugna added.

Suarez admitted that making President Aquino unpopular is a tall order, considering that his media team has been successful in picturing him as somebody who always presses the right buttons.

“They [Aquino administration] have a good sort of media control. His team makes him appear that he is anti-corruption, that he can’t do anything wrong. He has a lot of influence on the media, both in print and television. I can only think of two newspapers which are critical of his administration, and their readership is not as wide as the others,” Suarez said.

He sees one ally sticking it out with President Aquino: Reelected Sen. Francis Escudero.

Escudero initially planned to run for president in 2009, but backed down when then Senator Aquino threw his hat in the presidential ring.

Escudero even resigned from NPC before he threw support behind then Senator Aquino. The 43-year-old senator has not been with any political party since.

“Escudero would likely stick with the President. It would be hard for him to run for President since he does not belong to any political party. It would be good for him to seek the Vice Presidency instead and be a guest candidate of a political party,” Suarez said.


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