MANILA, Philippines – Administration senators of the 18th Congress met on Wednesday, June 5, amid an apparent leadership row between Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Cynthia Villar.
At least 14 senators of the next Congress attended the dinner meeting held at the residence of Senator Manny Pacquiao in Dasmariñas Village in Makati.
Aside from Pacquiao, Sotto, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, and Richard Gordon were present.
Also present were Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Ronald dela Rosa, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, and Bong Go.
Outgoing senators Gregorio Honasan II and Loren Legarda, known Sotto allies, also joined the dinner.
The meeting did not last long, according to Zubiri.
"Lista lista lang muna pero mukang naayos na ni SP [Senate President] ang mga problema sa committees (They just listed down their committees but it looks like Senate President Sotto was able to fix the problems with the committees)," Zubiri told reporters.
Asked if it means Sotto will retain his post, Zubiri said: "Yes, it's SP Sotto pa rin (still)."
For his part, Sotto said 95% of committee chairmanships have been settled already.
"95% [done]. We assume all is well. Just 1 or 2 committees na lang (left)," Sotto told reporters.
Asked what the remaining issues are, Sotto said he'd rather not discuss it until they talk to the senator involved.
"I told them I'll have all fixed by next week," he added.
Photo from Bong Go
Before the meeting at Pacquiao's residence, Sotto had a separate meeting with the 3 new senators from PDP-Laban: Go, Tolentino, and Dela Rosa.
Asked why the need for a special meeting, Sotto only said they just made "clarifications on some issues."
Tolentino reportedly has qualms over the committees, as he is eyeing 3 panels: blue ribbon, justice, and public services committees. However, these are chaired by incumbent senators Richard Gordon and Grace Poe. Gordon and Poe are so far not keen on giving them up.
Villar skipped Wednesday night's meeting, earlier saying that those with issues should attend it. Her partymate in the Nacionalista Party (NP), Pia Cayetano, also did not attend, as she is reportedly abroad. The two were represented by Marcos, another NP member.
Villar earlier confronted Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and Pacquiao, both PDP-Laban members, for supposedly dragging her to the party's mess over the Senate leadership.
Villar also scolded Pacquiao for presenting some PDP-Laban senators as Sotto supporters. Pimentel, in response, told Villar to "mind [her] own party."
Pacquiao's partymate Tolentino and Marcos earlier floated that there are efforts to change the Senate leadership, with Marcos saying some are pushing for Villar.
Amid these rumors, Senator Panfilo Lacson drafted a manifesto of support for Sotto's continued leadership in the 18th Congress. Lacson said he did it to finally know who are still supportive of Sotto. Fourteen senators, including 3 outgoing lawmakers, signed the draft resolution. Villar refused to sign it.
The 18th Congress is set to open on July 22, the same day President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com