THE once powerful Liberal Party is on the brink of losing its grip on the Senate leadership following the entry of seven non-LP members among the winning senators and the defeat of the party’s presidential candidate, Manuel Roxas II.
The Commission on Elections proclaimed yesterday the top 12 winners in the senatorial race—Senate President Franklin Drilon (LP); former Tesda Director Joel Villanueva (LP); reelectionist Senator Vicente Sotto III (Nationalist People’s Coalition); former senators Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon and Jose Miguel Zubiri, all independent; world boxing champ Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao (United Nationalist Alliance); ex-senator Francis Pangilinan (LP); former Rep. Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan); Caloocan Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian (NPC); Senator Ralph Recto and former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (LP).
After the victory of Drilon and Recto in their reelection bid, the successful comeback of Pangilinan, and the victory of Villanueva and De Lima, there are now six LP members in the Senate.
The other member of the ruling party is presidential cousin Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.
While Hontiveros belongs to the party-list Akbayan, she ran under the wing of LP in the last three elections, and is likely to add to the LP numbers, which will reach seven.
Still, Drilon would need 13 senators under his fold to remain at the helm of the Senate.
Political observers say, moreover, that the victory of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the presidential race can spark political realignments in the Senate.
They add that the Senate presidency may not go to Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) president Aquilino Pimentel III or Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, who belongs to the Nacionalista Party.
The NP, led by its founding president, former Senate president. Manny Villar and his wife, incumbent Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday forged an alliance with Duterte’s PDP-Laban.
Duterte was appointed PDP-Laban national chairman before he filed his Certificate of Candidacy for president in October. Pimentel is the party’s president.
Aside from Cayetano and Villar, the other NP member in the Senate is Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who also lost in the last vice presidential race.
Pimentel had earlier said he is open to the Senate leadership, but he is not anxious to get it.
“If called to serve in that capacity, it’s my duty as PDP-Laban president to push for the governance agenda not only of my party, but also of my president,” said Pimentel.
“But ultimately, that will depend on the collective will of my colleagues in the Senate,” said Pimentel, whose term ends in 2019.
While Cayetano has been offered a post as secretary of Foreign Affairs or Justice under a Duterte administration, he can assume the post only after a year following his election defeat.
UP political science professor Prospero de Vera said either Pimentel or Cayetano would be able to cobble together a majority coalition.
De La Salle University political analyst Richard Heydarian said he expects LP to lose the Senate presidency to PDP-Laban (Pimentel) or other non-LP candidates, and end up as the main opposition party.
“Though they did well in the Senate race, I expect them to lose the Senate leadership,” he added.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino said he’s not quite sure that the next Senate president could be either Pimentel or Cayetano.
He said they will have major roles in the coming Senate since both are senior legislators and both have the trust and confidence of the newly-elected president.
“I don’t know about the LP but in terms of numbers they still have around six or seven and as such would play a role in the Senate leadership race,” he said.
Drilon, also LP national vice chairman, said it is still “premature” to talk about a change of leadership.
As usual, political butterflies in Congress are expected to jump ship to secure key positions.
Regardless of their political parties, senators would definitely join or form an alliance with PDP-Laban.
The Palace on Thursday congratulated the Comelec for proclaiming the new senators and party-list representatives.
“We join the people in expressing joy that the Comelec properly accomplished its role as the national board of canvassers in the election and in the proclamation of senators and party-list representatives,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a statement.
“This is a validation of having a stable and vibrant democracy in our country,” Coloma said.
Topping this year’s senatorial race is Drilon, vice chairman of the Liberal Party, with 18,607,391 votes.
At a close second with 18,459,222 votes is Villanueva, a first-time senatorial candidate, adopted by the administration party.
Sotto of the Nationalist People’s Coalition stands at third place with 17,200,371 votes, followed by two independent candidates, former senators Lacson (16,926,152 votes) and Gordon (16,719,322 votes).
Rounding up the Top 12 are:
6th: Zubiri (Independent) — 16,119,165 votes;
7th: Pacquiao (United Nationalist Alliance) — 16,050,546 votes;
8th: Pangilinan (LP) — 15,955,949 votes;
9th: Hontiveros (Akbayan, adopted by LP) — 15,915,213 votes;
10th: Gatchalian (NPC) — 14,953,768 vote
11th Recto (LP) — 14,271,868 votes; and
12th: De Lima (LP) — 14,144,070 votes.
The results are based on a total of 166 certificates of canvass transmitted from all over the country, as well as those manually prepared, including detainee and local absentee voting.
This accounts for a total of 44,979,151 votes, an 81-percent turnout for this year’s elections.
Unlike in previous polls, the Commission on Elections en banc, which sat as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), decided to hold this year’s proclamation in one occasion, which comes after nine days of canvassing.
The proclamation pushed through despite opposition from former MMDA chairperson Francis Tolentino, an independent candidate who finished 13th based in the official count.
Tolentino asked the Supreme Court to stop the proclamation of candidates ranking 10th, 11th, and 12th in this race.
Tolentino is in 13th place based on partial-official tally, where he raked in 12,811,098 votes, more than 1.3 million votes behind De Lima.
He said the 10th, 11th and 12th placer in the senatorial race should not yet be proclaimed because an alleged “data manipulation” has compromised the results of the results of the May 9 elections.
Tolentino asked the Court to direct the Comelec to open the automated election system to forensic audit and investigation to determine the nature, extent, effect, and consequences of the unauthorized manipulation of the system made by Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic, systems provider for the recently concluded polls.
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