MALACANANG sees no problem with the looming change in the Senate leadership, its spokesman said on Friday.
This was after 14 senators from the majority bloc closed ranks this week and agreed to name Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd the next Senate president, replacing Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd.
In a Skype interview with Malacañang reporters, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte respected the decision of the senators.
“Nirerespeto naman po namin ang karapatan ng mga senador na pumili ng kanilang pinuno (We respect the rights of the senators to choose their leader),” Roque said.
“So hindi po naghihimasok ang Presidente at ang Palasyo diyan sa proseso ng pagpili ng bagong Senate President, he added.
(So the President does not interfere with the process of electing a new Senate President.)
But Roque said he believed that the close relationship between the Duterte administration and the Senate would not change, citing Sotto as an ally of the President.
“Ako naman po ay naniniwala at naniniwala po ang Palasyo na kahit sino pong mahalal na Senate President, at ang balita po ay Sen. Tito Sotto, ay napakalapit din pong kaalyado si Sen. Tito Sotto at wala pong magbabago sa malapit na samahan at sa kooperasyon na ngayon po ay mayroon sa panig ng Senado at ng Malacañang,” he said.
(I also believe and the President also believe that whoever is elected as Senate President, and I heard it’s Sen. Tito Sotto, he is an ally, and there will be no changes in the close relationshp and cooperation between the Senate and Malacañang.)
On Wednesday, 14 out of 23 senators signed a resolution electing Sotto as the next Senate President.
The manifesto states: “By majority vote of all the senators, Sen. Vicente C. Sotto 3rd is hereby elected as the new Senate President to discharge the duties and powers granted to him by the Rules of the Senate.”
Pimentel called for a majority caucus on Monday, May 21, to discuss the transition. He previously denied that there had been an agreement between him and Sotto on this reorganization.
Senators still have to determine if the transition will happen in July or August — a date Pimentel refused to confirm.
Pimentel was elected Senate leader in 2016 at the start of the 17th Congress. He is also president of the ruling PDP-Laban party.
Sotto, meanwhile, has campaigned against illegal drugs since he entered politics as vice mayor of Quezon City in 1998, during the height of his career as an actor and musician. CATHERINE S. VALENTE