JPE allies: Too early to talk about new Senate chief

Posted at 05/20/13 4:11 PM

MANILA - Amid talks of a looming change in the Senate leadership, two allies of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile believe it is still too early to even talk about replacing him as head of the chamber during the 16th Congress.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, who placed 12th in this year's senatorial race, told reporters on Monday there's no guarantee all senators from the administration Team PNoy would elect a new Senate president from their ranks. 

"Kung ang pagsasama nila ay tumagal beyond May 13, we can make that assumption," said Honasan, who ran under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). "Ang question is, tatagal ba sila? Tatagal ba ang pag-iisang dibdib nila?"

Team PNoy candidates dominated the polls, with nine of them winning and only three from UNA. 

Reports quoted Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago as saying the Liberal Party's Sen. Franklin Drilon and newly reelected Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party are the top contenders for the Senate presidency.

Honasan said, however, that it is premature to talk about having a new Senate president.

He also recalled that Enrile was elected Senate president in 2010 because none of the other contenders then managed to have the support of at least 13 of their colleagues.

"Hindi ko alam kung pareho pa rin ang sitwasyon," he said. "But I think it is premature to talk about what will happen sa pagbubukas ng 16th Congress."

In a phone interview, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said any senator can be Senate president if he or she manages to gather 13 votes.

He said Santiago's statement that an administration ally like Drilon or Cayetano would become Senate president is just her opinion.

"You have to consider the other members of the Senate. Hindi puwedeng i-confine sa dalawa lang," he said.

Sotto also stressed that Enrile is not courting other senators' support to retain him as the Senate leader.

He dismissed Santiago's view that Enrile will do everything to destroy the administration coalition so that it would fail to elect a new Senate president.

"He has never sought the position even up to now. Have we heard a single one that said kinakausap sila ni Sen. Enrile? Wala," he said.

Sotto and Honasan belong to Enrile's bloc in the Senate, along with Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada.

Newly elected senators JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay are likely to join them since they are both from UNA, where Enrile is a leading figure.