Palace hands off on change in Senate leadership

By Jelly Musico

May 18, 2018, 3:13 pm

MANILA – Malacañang on Friday said it will respect the rights of the senators in choosing their next leader.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this reaction amid reports that 14 senators have already signed a resolution endorsing Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III as next Senate President.

Incumbent Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III is set to step down next week to prepare for his reelection bid in the 2019 mid-term polls.

“We respect the right of the senators to choose their leaders,” Roque said in a Skype interview. “So the Palace and the President won’t intervene in the process of choosing the next Senate President.”

He expressed his belief that nothing would change in their efforts to come up with pro-people legislative agenda, especially if Sotto will be elected as next Senate President.

“Senator Tito Sotto is a close ally. Nothing would change in the close cooperation that the Senate and Malacañang have been enjoying now,” Roque said.

According to media reports, the smooth leadership transition between Pimentel and Sotto was supported by at least 14 senators -- Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Estrada, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

In an interview with media network GMA News TV, Pimentel said Sotto deserves to be chosen as next Senate president.

“Politically speaking, he is really the one being approached by the majority bloc. He is recognized as expert of the rules of the Senate,” he said.

Aside from his plan to seek reelection, Pimentel said he wanted to allot more time on the Duterte administration’s efforts to shift the system of government from unitary presidential to federalism.

Pimentel’s father, former Senate president Nene Pimentel, is a member of the 25-man Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution. (PNA)