With two Mindanaoan senators — Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III and Juan Miguel Zubiri — putting their unfortunate experience as bitter rivals behind, the former garnered a super majority vote that catapulted him to the Senate presidency on Monday.
During the opening of the Senate’s first regular session of the 17th Congress, an overwhelming 20 senators elected Pimentel to replace Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Those who voted for Pimentel include: Senators Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara, Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ Aquino IV, Nancy Binay, Leila De Lima, Drilon, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan II, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao, Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Vicente Sotto III, Cynthia Villar, Joel Villanueva, Zubiri and Ralph Recto.
Recto was also nominated by Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero to the Senate presidency but got only three votes, including one from Pimentel himself. The third vote for Recto came from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Recto, a former Senate President Pro-Tempore, automatically took the position of Minority Leader.
”I envision our role as quality control inspector, on the lookout for weaknesses, subjecting every bill to a stress-test, so it is assured of trouble-free implementation,” Recto said in his acceptance speech.
Sotto nominated Pimentel as the next Senate president while Zubiri seconded the motion.
”It is my honor and privilege to second the nomination of a fellow Mindanaoan leader who in the past I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having as a bitter rival, but today I leave all the bitterness behind us as a sign of unity, magnanimity and support for our people and our fellow Mindanao President (Rodrigo R. Duterte) who has made history for our region,” Zubiri said in his nomination speech.
In August 2011, Zubiri resigned as senator days before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) released a ruling that declared Pimentel as the duly elected 12th senator in the 2007 national and local elections.
Pimentel became the first son to repeat his father’s achievement. Pimentel’s father, former Senator Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel Jr., served as Senate president in the 11th Congress from 2000 to 2001.
In his acceptance speech, Pimentel said when he joined the Senate in 2011, he already put behind him the election cheating that cost him the Senate seat in the 2007 polls.
”And to be fair to all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, especially my parents, Tatay Nene and Nanay Bing, for all the support they have given me. They know my story. They know my hardships that I have gone through, which I will no longer mention, because as I have stated way back in August 2011 when I joined this chamber, “let bygones be bygones,” Pimentel said.
In front of the jampacked Senate Session Hall, Pimentel said that the change promised by President Rodrigo R. Duterte must also come to and from the Senate.
”I read your presence here today is indicating your support for the change that President Rodrigo Duterte has promised would come to the country,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel is the lone senator from President Duterte’s political party, Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
As one of the senators from Mindanao, Pimentel urged his colleagues to give the people of Mindanao a singular opportunity to show the nation and the world at large “that we are up to the challenge, in serving the best interest of our people.”
”Hence, I pledge before all of you today that I will be fair in carrying out the mandate that you have given me as Senate president,” Pimentel said.
”I assure all of our colleagues that fairness will be the guiding principle in our implementation of the Program of Government for Change that the majority of senators have agreed upon,” he added.
Pimentel said he might give to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Cayetano aspired for the Senate presidency but eventually gave way to Pimentel after failing to muster enough support. He was no show at the opening of the first regular session.
Meanwhile, Drilon and Sotto have been unanimously elected as Senate President Pro-Tempore and Senate Majority Leader, respectively.
Lutgardo B. Barbo has been elected as the new Senate Secretary, replacing Oscar Yabes, while retired Air Force Gen. Jose Balajadia Jr. retained his position as Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.
Barbo was the Senate Secretary under the leadership of former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV administered the oath-taking for the 12 senators who won in the last May 9 national elections.
They are Drilon with 18.6 million votes; Villanueva (18.4 million votes); Sotto (17.2 million votes); Lacson (16.9 million votes); Gordon (16.7 million votes); Zubiri (16.1 million votes); Pacquiao (16 million votes); Pangilinan (15.9 million votes); Hontiveros (15.9 million votes); Gatchalian (14.9 million votes); Recto (14.2 million votes); and De Lima (14.1 million votes).
Out of the 12 senators, the neophytes are former Justice Secretary De Lima, former Valenzuela City Congressman Gatchalian, former Congresswoman Hontiveros, former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Chairman Villanueva and boxing superstar Pacquiao.
After the morning session, the senators proceeded to the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City to hear the first State- of-the-Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte. (Cielito M. Reganit/PNA)