SENATOR Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd was elected Senate President as the 17th Congress opened Monday morning, vowing to pass legislation for the poor and to support the Duterte administration’s anti-crime drive.
Pimentel, son of former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., was sworn in by neophyte Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao.
Mindanaoans now occupy the three highest posts in the land: President Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte and Pimentel of Cagayan de Oro City.
It was the first time for the son of a former Senate President to also lead the chamber.
Pimentel got the support of the blocs led by Sen. Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) and Senators Vicente Sotto 3rd and Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
In a dramatic turn, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, a returnee to the chamber, rose to nominate Pimentel.
The friendship between the two Mindanaoan legislators was marred by their fight for the 12th and last senatorial slot in the 2007 elections.
Zubiri was proclaimed winner but had to quit in 2011 before he could be unseated by the Senate Electoral Tribunal over charges of election fraud.
Twenty senators voted for Pimentel while his closest rival, Sen. Ralph Recto of the LP, got three votes from Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th, Francis Escudero and Pimentel.
As a result, Recto became Minority Leader.
Drilon became Senate President Pro Tempore and Sotto, the Majority Leader.
Pimentel, the 1990 bar examination topnotcher and graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law, thanked his colleagues for electing him Senate President despite the fact that he is the lone member of PDP-Laban Party in the chamber.
Pimentel said he will be fair as Senate President.
He vowed to support the anti-crime campaign, taxation and budget reforms, the rule of law, inclusive growth and environment protection, among others.
“The poorest first, the poor second then we will never go wrong,” he said.
He pointed out however that good governance is not only the function of elected officials but also of the governed.
Pimentel thanked his father, saying “I can now join the list of the country’s Senate Presidents just like you.”
Cayetano a no-show
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who ran for vice president under Duterte but lost, was a no-show at the opening of the Senate session.
Pimentel said Cayetano will be offered the Committee on Foreign Affairs to prepare him to become Foreign secretary when the one-year ban on the appointment of losing candidates to positions in government expires.
The Senate chief said Sen. Cynthia Villar will get the Environment Committee, while the Public Services panel will go to Sen. Grace Poe.
The powerful Blue Ribbon investigating committee will be chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, while the Trade and Industry panel will go to Zubiri.
National Defense will go to Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Tourism to Sen. Nancy Binay, Public Works to Pacquiao, Finance to Legarda, Education to Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Ways and Means to Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Local Government to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Labor to Sen. Joel Villanueva, Justice to Sen. Leila de Lima and Health to Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
Escudero is being offered the Energy chairmanship, while Trillanes has yet to decide which committee to handle.