Rag-tag groupings in the Senate



The victory of nine candidates from the administration-supported coalition ticket last May 13 doesn’t necessarily mean the upcoming Senate majority will be under the thumb of Malacanang. Except in the 8th Congress when Cory was president, groupings in the Senate were never determined by the relations of senators with Malacanang. In this chamber, the division is strictly into majority and minority, period.

The situation in the House is more clear-cut—the majority is always pro-administration and the minority, opposition. This holds true even if majority of the congressmen were elected as members of the party that eventually became the opposition. In 1992, most of the winners in Congress were members of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino but not for long. Most of them went on to join Lakas, the party of President Fidel V. Ramos. Majority of the winners in 1998 were Lakas but they later joined the party of President Erap Estrada. With Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacanang in 2001, a number became “Balik-Lakas,” and stayed there until 2010 when President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino came to power.

This situation can’t be said of the Senate. A senator can be with the majority without being supportive of Malacanang. Conversely, a minority senator can be very friendly with Malacanang. Neither can it be said that one’s party affiliation determines whether a senator will be with the minority or majority. As I have pointed out time and again, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was minority leader of the 15th Congress although Sen. Manny Villar, the president of the Nacionalista Party to which he belongs, is with the majority. In the 9th Congress, Sen. Wigberto Tanada of the Liberal Party was minority leader although the LPs in the House were coalition partners of Lakas. Sen. Edgardo J. Angara of the LDP became Senate President when FVR of Lakas was president.

I don’t see this situation changing in the 16th Congress that will convene on July 22, 2013. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago will definitely be a member of the majority. She can’t possibly be with the minority where Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile will be the leading light. Don’t be surprised, however, if Malacanang doesn’t welcome her company (the feeling could be mutual) even if she’ll join the Senate majority.

Members of the Aquino Cabinet won’t be comfortable with her for she once described them as “so lightweight that they are liable to float off their own delusions of grandeur.”

She derided some Cabinet members as Aquino sycophants and said they should be declared “enemies of the state.” That’s hilarious but obviously, the Cabinet members weren’t amused.

Senator Miriam’s most venomous words, however, were directed at BS Aquino when he was still a senator. She once described him on the floor as “a sorry excuse for the scion of a great man.”

“Your colleagues in the House snicker behind your back because of your overbearing attitude that is not supported by any significant achievement in lower house legislation,” she said in a privilege speech full of venom.

She added that she would want to educate him “if he is educable.” Ouch!

The gulf between her and Malacanang became even wider with her stand and vote against the Malacanang-inspired impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. She was viciously lambasted by the pro-administration horde and she fired back with equal gusto. With such a history between them, Malacanang and Senator Miriam are like oil and water and they just could not mix even if she’ll be with the majority in the 16th Congress.

Another senator, Bongbong Marcos of the Nacionalista Party, will be with the incoming majority in the chamber. Sen. Manny Villar, the NP head, had already declared that the party will maintain its coalition agreement with the Liberal Party of which President BS Aquino is the titular head. The denizens of Malacanang will not welcome Senator Bongbong to their fold, just like Senator Miriam, even if he’ll be with the Senate majority. The family name “Marcos” remains anathema to the Aquinos almost three decades after the assassination of former Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

As I have said, party affiliation doesn’t wash in the majority-minority division of the Senate as in the case of Senator Alan and Sen. Manny Villar of the NP. I see a similar situation in the 16th Congress with Sen. Tito Sotto in the minority and his fellow member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Sen. Loren Legarda, in the majority.

And how about Sen. Bong Revilla, chairman of Lakas? His partymates in the House are certain to be minority and opposition but he still has to define his stand. I believe he’ll join the majority but only if he’s assured of retaining the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Public Works and not because he’ll be pro-administration.



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