The incoming Senate will not be a rubber stamp, despite the overwhelming victory of allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Sunday.
Sotto said the President had never interfered in the 17th Congress.
“Never did the President interfere. It’s not his character,” Sotto said, adding that this was so even when Duterte’s party mate, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, was Senate president.
“Now the good question [is]…what would Bong Go, Bato dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino do?” Sotto said, referring to winning candidates Christopher Go, former Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa and former political adviser Francis Tolentino, who received strong backing from President Duterte.
“Will they just blindly follow [the Palace]? I doubt it. As a matter of fact, I know Bong Go, and if the Palace insists on something that is not to his liking, he’ll push back,” Sotto said in Filipino.
He also said bills that will be passed in the Senate would be based on their merit, not because a measure is endorsed by the President.
He also played down the decline in the number of opposition senators—down to four—saying this would not affect the Senate’s role to provide checks and balances.
“Outright I’m telling you, It won’t happen,” he said, referring to the development of a rubber-stamp Senate.
He noted that the biggest winner, returning Senator Cynthia Villar, has repeatedly said she would not be a member of any rubber-stamp body.
Meanwhile, Go and Dela Rosa’s entry into the Senate will bring to five the number of senators from Duterte’s home region of Mindanao.
The three other senators from Mindanao are former Pimentel, Miguel Zubiri and Manny Pacquiao.
This would surpass the number in the 8th Congress, when there were four senators from Mindanao.
Go and Dela Rosa were among the 13 candidates backed by the regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago, which was established by presidential daughter Sara Duterte, who won her third and final term as Davao City mayor in the last polls.
Meanwhile, the left-leaning IBON research group urged the incoming Senate to prove its independence by rejecting the proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Lawmakers should keep in mind the dangers that Charter change poses for the country’s economic sovereignty, the group said.
In December last year, the House of Representatives transmitted its approved, consolidated version of proposed constitutional amendments, Resolution of Both Houses 15, to the Senate. Aside from establishing a federal state and removing term limits, Cha-Cha would implement amendments to the Constitution that would strike out the nationalist provisions and liberalize the economy to foreign investors.