Reports that two neophyte senators, Risa Hontiveros and Bam Aquino, are plotting to wreck the Senate majority do not surprise us. The chamber, which in another time was called the Upper House and “a nursery for future presidents,” has lost its luster and purpose in the 16th Congress.
The Senate president was chosen not because of leadership credentials, but because he comes from the same region and political party as the President of the country. He brought no senators with him at the start of the organization of the chamber last year. The president pro-tempore was selected without thought of party allegiance; he did not even have to turn his coat.
When the entire chamber was accused by Sen. Antonio Trillanes of cowardice and servility to President Duterte, the Senate president did not say a single word. The chamber pretended not to notice, hoping the insult would just go away.
The only activity for which the senators have shown some energy and enthusiasm is in the conduct of committee inquiries. They wake up for this undertaking because of the prospect of appearing senatorial on television.
With no serious lawmaking and policy debates going on, the Senate has become an institution that looks ready for an upheaval. Interested parties from within or without were bound to scheme about toppling the leadership and seizing control of the chamber.
The Senate is a worthy prize for serious politicians – it has power, it has a regular and sizable budget. It has ready access to the media.
Hontiveros and Aquino will doubtless deny the charge of Sen. Cynthia Villar that they are plotting to destroy the Senate majority or topple the leadership. In the next few days they will swamp the media with statements about their innocence. What is surprising is that the move to hike up the chamber did not come sooner.
With the Senate looking like Humpty Dumpty, the 17 senators who have bandied together to force through a resolution calling on the President to stop the drug killings should go after a more meaningful prize. They should consider taking over the leadership of the chamber. All they need is a leader who understands politics and is a dealmaker.
The erstwhile Supermajority will now desperately try to reconstruct and revive itself. Some majority senators will
talk about being excluded from the signing of the disputed resolution.
But because the Supermajority had no principle of union to begin with and no real leadership, it has no reason to cohere and no message to take to the public concerning its claim to continue leading the chamber.
Meanwhile, the 17 plotters can cohere around the theme of providing real leadership to the chamber. They can give the senators who deserted the majority leading positions in the chamber and some choice committees to chair.
Can a serious Senate takeover be effected? That is doubtful, because the Senate has no leaders of substance in the fold, and each senator is a political party in his/her own right. Most are just waiting to make a deal.
Two things may happen as a consequence of the current turmoil. Pimentel may decide to hang up the gloves; and Recto may decide to go for the prize.
Duterte could move and establish a solid majority in the Senate that will act like a serious political party that is loyal to the President.
Another possibility is that the Liberal Party may make a serious bid to become the majority in the chamber. The party has the most number of senators in the chamber. They have some familiarity with one another in having been cohorts of the past administration. They could adopt the colors of Tindig Pilipinas.
The LP desperately needs to show the nation that it has a spine and stands for something. Will it be brave enough to stand up and declare that they are a serious political party, and they will now organize and gather members from around the country?
And then there is Antonio Trillanes, who might make a bid for the Senate presidency.