Antonio Trillanes

Trapo Alert! Detecting political pandering, part 7

Panderometer

Featuring Jun Magsaysay, Edward Hagedorn, Antonio Trillanes, Samson Alcantara, Ramon Montaño and Ricardo Penson.

This is the seventh part in a series on the candidates for the senate in 2013. Just a recap: I am attempting through this series to have a serious discussion of the aspirants and their political platforms (or lack thereof). These are put through what I call the pander-o-meter to determine whether the policy detail they have released so far places them in either the reformist or populist columns. The following table details the range of possible scores a candidate can get and the equivalent meaning of each reading:Introducing: the ‘Pander-o-meter’ or Trapo Scale

A reading of… …is equivalent to…

1-2

Low levels of pandering detected, generally reformist in nature

3

A mixed bag of proposals aimed at both pandering and reforming

4

Trapo alert! Approaching dangerous levels of pandering

5

Could be likened to a vote buying trapo

In part 1, I covered Juan Edgardo Angara, JrBenigno Aquino IV and Alan Peter Cayetano. In part 2, I covered Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros and Loren Legarda. In part 3, I covered Aquilino Pimentel III,Joseph Victor Ejercito and Juan Ponce Enrile, Jr. In part 4, I covered Gregorio HonasanErnesto Maceda and Juan Miguel Zubiri. In part 5, I coveredTeodoro Casiño, the candidates of Ang Kapatiran Party (John Carlos delos Reyes, Lito David and Mars Llasos), and the candidates of the Democratic Party of the Philippines (Bal Falcone, Christian Señeres and Greco Belgica). In part 6, I covered Grace Poe LlamanzaresEd Villanueva and Richard Gordon.

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Ramon Magsaysay, Jr (Liberal-Team PNoy)

At 74, Ramon or “Jun” Magsaysay is one of the older candidates in this year’s election. Having served in the 13th Congress as senator, he would be no stranger to the upper chamber having chaired a number of committees and contributed to if not authored a number of important laws such as the Anti-money Laundering Act, the Electronic Commerce Act and the Magna Carta for Small and Medium Enterprises.

He is also one of the few running for a seat in the upper house with a solid business background who supports innovation and the information economy, although it is ironic that his campaign does not have a website to communicate his platforms, just a scant social media presence (his Facebook account was created on 23 April and his Twitter account has 1,364 followers as at this writing). Thus, I was only able to find his platform through third party websites (like UP sa Halalan 2013) and through news articles.

Jun is pushing for:

  • a roadmap for the coconut industry,
  • a higher internet penetration rate, and
  • the creation of a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) that would boost innovation and entrepreneurial ventures in the country.

General Comments:

This is quite a full legislative agenda already. I was heartened when I read about his support for the SWF concept since I have been pushing this idea for more than two years. He assesses the risks of doing so, but he believes such risks are worth it given the potential benefits. Jun is the only candidate who has even addressed this issue. Given the ballooning of our gross international reserves as a result of remittances from Filipinos working overseas, he agrees that we need to direct some of it towards industrial development and innovation to counter the strength of the peso which is weakening our international cost competitiveness.

Among the senatorial contenders, Jun is the only one with an idea as to how to fund his proposals.  The rest just talk about spending programs, without any indication as to how their priorities would be financed. Jun does both with his endorsement of the SWF concept. Perhaps, due to his background in business and his honesty as a politician, Jun recognises that to get the economy of the Philippines heading in the right direction, livelihood programs and public infrastructure spending won’t be enough.

But he does not simply restrict himself to the promise of the information economy, Jun’s support for a coco industry roadmap shows that his views on economic development embrace both new and old economies. Again, the SWF could be used to spur the development of agro-industrial exports from coconut farming. The vision that PNoy has for the sector whose workers are the poorest in the industry could be realised by investing some SWF money in the commercialisation of export generating business ideas.

Pander-o-meter: 1 out of 5

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Edward Hagedorn (Independent)

The long-serving mayor of Puerto Princesa, Palawan is making a bid for a national post for the first time with a platform based on his experience at fostering tourism in the island through peace and order and investing in natural capital. His Facebook page contains a short video clip that captures this approach in a slogan called Turismo, Trabaho, Mismo.

In his website, there is a more detailed description of his legislative priorities. There are numerous proposals involving the promotion of sustainable farming, eco-tourism and renewable energy. He also seeks to develop a national land use policy that would govern regional development and planning. He wants to promote regional investments through fiscal incentives, regional infrastructure and regional access to healthcare services right down to the barrio level.

On the health front, Mr Hagedorn’s proposal is to allow member contributions to increase in line with one’s salary to allow for greater coverage of services and for matching contributions to be made by government. He is also seeking greater devolution of health service delivery and for the allotment of local government units to be possibly increased in order to cover this.

On the social front, he advocates tougher laws on juvenile delinquency and beggars to be spearheaded by the DSWD and the PNP. He also seeks a regional employment program to replace the conditional cash transfer program of the national government and the funding of places in private educational institutions (i.e. a voucher system) in the public provision of education. He also supports the vigorous implementation of the reproductive health bill, progressive sin taxes and the freedom of information bill.

General comments:

Mr Hagedorn’s proposals for the country seem to be quite prescriptive, based as they are on his experience in the city of Puerto Princesa. Preserving the natural, cultural and human capital of a place is quite important for attracting tourism into the area. Having a land use policy would aid in preserving the character of tourist destinations.

My worry is that some regions in the country might not gain as much from an emphasis on tourism as others. For these regions, a different engine for growth is required. Perhaps the only option is farming, forestry or mining. To a certain extent, you could convert our forests into tourist destinations. If we could upgrade our government’s capacity to manage and enforce logging restrictions, we could have sustainable tree farms of already cleared forests alongside eco-tourist trails in preserved areas. The same goes for mining since many of our mineral reserves can only be accessed and extracted through forests. Again, a land use and environmental policy would be essential for regulating this.

Creating a voucher system for private education and flexible health coverage depending on one’s income will be a drastic departure from the current set up. More details are needed to determine the practicality and desirability of the plan. Despite that, putting them on the table could lead to very interesting debates and modifications in the senate.

Pander-o-meter: 2 out of 5

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Antonio Trillanes IV (Nacionalista-Team PNoy)

Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, the former Navy Lieutenant turned rebel spokesman, is seeking a fresh mandate to remain in his position under Team PNoy. It must be quite a change after waging his first senate bid from a prison cell and serving the first half of his term from there. During his first term, he authored a number of important bills such as the Data Privacy Act and the Archipelagic Baseline Law.

He was the principal author of the Magna Carta for the Poor which was vetoed by the president due to insufficient funds. In his second term, he wants to enact a freedom of information law, amend the cybercrime act and extend e-procurement to all government agencies.

General comments:

Mr Trillanes took a while but his Magna Carta for the Poor bill has demonstrated his populist leanings. The law was vetoed by President Aquino for being prohibitively costly. As I have mentioned before, creating rights is one thing, but enforcing them is another. Enacting legislation that provides social and economic entitlements beyond the capacity of government and society to provide for is simply irresponsible.

I do not know what is worse: being the author of such a blatantly populist measure or voting for it. The fact that such a law reached the desk of the president for signature shows just how populist both houses of congress are. The fact that they were willing to follow the mad piper in pandering to the masses by passing his proposal is testament to the seductive appeal of going down the populist path. Fortunately, the president made the pragmatic decision and vetoed the bill on the grounds that he could not enforce it.

On the other hand, when it came to a measure that provided reproductive health rights which the government could afford and which would provide fiscal dividends down the track due to lower population growth, Senator Trillanes decided to vote against it. He may have enacted a number of good laws and his legislative agenda contains a few more good ones, but on the whole the senator’s performance has been a bit of a mixed bag.

Pander-o-meter: 3 out of 5.

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Samson Alcantara (Social Justice Party)

The sole candidate for his party and law professor is running to bring about a more equitable society, although it is not clear how he intends to do this. The same goes for his advocacy for quality education and the establishment of a code for teachers and students.

This is symptomatic of taking a rights based approach to social and economic legislation. As I have said previously, many of our legislators think that they can legislate their way into a utopian society without considering the cost. Although he takes a high brow approach and couches the need to build a more egalitarian society on the constitution, it is very hard to see how his proposal for a people’s initiative to strengthen democracy will bring about the necessary social and economic transformation.

Essentially, creating a freer, more open and contestable political and economic system won’t be achieved in one go. Alcantara’s concept of social justice needs to be teased out further. He hasn’t really enunciated a coherent strategy for addressing inequity in our society. For someone who claims that the major political parties are not providing us anything of substance, he falls into the same category by his policy omissions.  I am tempted here to rank him a 5 out of 5 in the pander-o-meter because his platform seems hollow, but I am willing to be a bit more lenient in awarding a mark.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out of 5

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Ramon Montaño (Independent)

This retired general is seeking to represent the veterans’ and retired soldiers’ interests in the senate and to decouple the police force from political interference. Other than that, it is not clear what he represents. The problem with single issue candidates is that they seem to represent a very limited view of the world. Electing someone to the senate should ideally be based on a more substantive set of policies and issues.

Pander-o-meter: 3.5 out of 5

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Ricardo Penson (Independent)

This businessman is running to ban political dynasties since the case he filed with the Supreme Court has not prospered so far. As this has become a political hot button issue given the composition of the senate slates of major parties. It has forced some concerned citizens to run simply to put the issue on the table. He has also come out in support of progressive causes like reproductive health and divorce. What he lacks is an economic agenda.

Pander-o-meter: 2.75 out of 5

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We are nearing the end of this series. The penultimate instalment will cover Nancy Binay, Tingting Cojuangco, Jamby Madrigal, Mitos Magsaysay and Cynthia Villar. This will be followed with a conclusion which will sum up all the findings in the series.

Senate Breakdowns and Policy Failures

After admirably discharging its duties during the impeachment trial, the Senate has committed a number of unfathomable policy blunders.

Following the conclusion of the impeachment trial of the chief justice in May, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s net satisfaction rating shot up by 17% pts to 65% in the Social Weather Station’s August survey. It was only two points shy of President Noynoy Aquino’s net satisfaction rating of 67%.

The same survey showed that Filipinos gave a net satisfaction rating of 67% (74% satisfied, 7% dissatisfied) to the Senate as an institution. This was an improvement from the 49% rating it received back in May. Such was the public’s admiration for the stature which the senate president lent to the proceedings of the impeachment that his son, Congressman Jackie Enrile became a leading contender in the race for a senate seat in 2013.

If that same survey were to be conducted today, you would doubt very much whether the senate would continue to enjoy such strong support from the public. A series of own-goals coming from its members may have just brought those ratings crashing right back down to Mother Earth. And the reason for this? Well, let us just put it down to institutional fragility. Let me explain.

First came the Scarborough Shoal incident that featured Senator Antonio Trillanes crossing wires with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario over the defusion of tensions with China. Having been in Beijing at the time, the junior senator claims to have been approached by Chinese officials to act as a “back channel” to the Aquino administration.

Trillanes claims credit for the withdrawal of Chinese navy vessels from the area, when in fact as the New York Times reported, it was the US that intervened. Be that as it may, this put the junior senator at odds with the Senate President who engaged with him in a verbal tit-for-tat on the floor of the upper house resulting in a walk-out by the impetuous Trillanes.

Not only that, but by using the contents of Ambassador Brady’s notes to grill the former lieutenant about his dealings in China, the senate president could have been in breach of diplomatic protocol himself by divulging the contents of such confidential minutes.

Then came the Cyber Crime Prevention Act, a law which is under Judicial Review for sections that appear to impinge on the bill of rights enshrined in the constitution. According to Raissa Robles, the final version of the Senate and the bicameral conference committee is to blame for this. The onerous provisions inserted by some senators on things such as “cyber-libel” gave it a distasteful element to those who value freedom of expression.

How such an appalling piece of legislation could have garnered the support of such legal eagles in the senate as Ed Angara, Pia Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Koko Pimentel and Miriam Santiago (only Senator TG Guingona stood opposed to it on third and final reading) boggles the mind.

This of course came on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto’s revolting display of hubris after being exposed for plagiarism. Sotto absolved himself by claiming that the internet from where he had lifted significant sections of a speech he gave against the Reproductive Health Bill was not subject to the rules of intellectual property.

Sotto happily claims ownership of the anti-libel provisions of the Anti-Cyber Crime Act saying he had intentionally placed them there in retaliation to his critics in social media who he claims need to be silenced. President Aquino, who in the past has shown sensitivity to public criticism by the media was glad to sign it into law. Since then, the Palace has admitted to flaws in the act, which they say need mending.

Then, finally, comes the episode of Senator Ralph Recto’s report advocating a watering down of the sin tax bill and hampering the Aquino government’s fiscal and health reform agendas in one fell swoop. Just days after releasing his report to the Senate, Recto, who had been responsible for crafting the expanded value added tax under President Gloria Arroyo to head off a fiscal crisis and who suffered at the polls for it, quickly retracted his submission. This has left the single most important revenue measure of the administration this year in limbo.

His sponsorship of the committee’s findings at the Senate was widely criticised both in the mainstream and social media. Senator Recto has offered to resign his chairmanship of the powerful committee of ways and means claiming that he had been deserted by the main proponents of his bill, namely the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Finance Department.

This trilogy of mistakes and poor judgements demonstrates how haphazard the senate has become in performing its core function of legislation. Having been locked down for half a year performing jury duty for the impeachment trial, the senate seems to have lost its deft touch when it comes to policy making. From foreign affairs and national security to criminal law and fiscal policy, the senate has had such a lacklustre performance of late.

The administration claimed that the impeachment trial would not impede its legislative agenda, yet the slow progress of such crucial bills involving reproductive health, freedom of information, whistleblower and witness protection, fiscal responsibility, K-12, health reform, and so much more, seems to belie this.

With “more of the same” literally speaking being on offer at the 2013 senate race (as in sons, daughters, blood relatives and in-laws of incumbents and former incumbents being put forward as candidates), you would not expect either the quality or the quantity of outcomes to improve. What is lacking is a sound process of policy development from conceptualisation and analysis to consultation and deliberation, all the way through to decision, implementation and evaluation.

They say the quality of institutions is critical to our development. Well, that may be true, but for the quality of our institutions to improve, we also need the composition of players within those institutions to diversify. If we simply recruit into such bodies people of the same class and gene pool, should we ever wonder why we get the same dismal outcomes?

The Game of the Generals

As the nation welcomed the Year of the Rabbit with a bang, pyrotechnics were being set alight in the halls of Congress as the investigations into the Carlos Garcia plea bargain drew to a close. It now appears that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will seek the withdrawal of the deal before the Sandiganbayan graft court after she was prevailed upon by some eminent members of the august chamber of the Senate to do so.

Meanwhile Ms Heidi Mendoza, the former auditor who uncovered evidence of plunder by Garcia, is being hailed as a hero and enlisted by P-Noy for a senior appointment in the fight against corruption. Before she entered the scene, all it seemed had been lost. The Ombudsman said the evidence it had was not admissible in court making its case weak. Garcia was allowed to retain most of what was alleged he had stolen. Pleading to a lesser offense, he was allowed to post bail and was subsequently set free. Enter Heidi Mendoza, and everything changed.

It is rather ironic that Ms Mendoza, who holds a rank of lieutenant colonel as a reserve officer but normally works quietly behind a desk crunching numbers, should bring the military establishment to its knees. This is in contrast to Lt Antonio Trillanes IV who was all sound and fury. Having used the barrel of a gun (twice in fact during the Oakwood Mutiny and the Manila Pen Siege) to throw a spotlight on the condition of soldiers in the field, he and his cabal failed to effect any meaningful change save for getting himself elected Senator.

P-Noy who campaigned and got elected on a platform of anti-corruption (kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap) and prosecuting his predecessor for graft, was muddling through in this regard having a hostile Ombudsman to contend with and his Truth Commission declared unconstitutional by the Arroyo-appointed Supreme Court.

Yet when he announced his candidacy back in 2009, P-Noy who prided himself with being a trained economist demonstrated an understanding of the calculus of corruption and the tools required to counter it. The present case of corruption in the military demonstrates just how lopsided the incentives are in favor of being dishonest.

The game of the generals as I would like to call it is no different in fact from the practices of chief executives at any S&P500 corporation. Consider the manner by which AFP budget officer Lt Col George Rabusa recounted them: (1) upon assuming office, the chief of staff received a 10 million peso pasalubong or signing bonus, (2) while in office, each chief was given 5 million pesos in addition to his salary, an expense account in other words, and (3) upon retiring, a general was sent away with a 50 million peso pabaon or golden parachute.

Their method for appropriating such wealth to themselves? Creative accounting: just as chief executives cook the books in the short-term to claim bonuses and move on to a new company before auditors are able to decipher what they have done, these generals seem to have done the same using PCDA (or provision for command-directed activities) as the vehicle.

Just as in the corporate world, the only way to prevent such practices from spiraling out of control and protecting the interests of shareholders when the CEO controls the board and is in cahoots with the auditing firm is through whistle blowers from inside the company (women have been found to be more conscientious and less prone to corruption and are more likely to blow the whistle on the practices of the “bad boys” in the board room, which is the argument for appointing more women in senior positions).

To those who supported Gibo Teodoro in the last presidential derby, it must be exceedingly clear at this point why the revelations in the Senate would have never happened under his administration. In a democracy, it is always healthy for a turnover of the reins to occur from one party to the next. And so it is in our situation.

The question now is, what is likely to happen over the next five and a half years under P-Noy? Many have questioned his ability to run the government competently despite his probity. But as we have just witnessed, competence can be outsourced but not probity. P-Noy needs a few good men and women, especially women, in championing the cause of good government. Without them, he could  just be running in circles, manipulated by the masters of the game.

Erratum: the original version of this article referred to Lt Antonio Trillanes as being the 3rd instead of the 4th as it now appears in the article.

PROCLAMATION NO. 50

MALACAÑAN PALACE

MANILA

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

PROCLAMATION NO. 50

GRANTING AMNESTY TO ACTIVE AND FORMER PERSONNEL OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THEIR SUPPORTERS WHO MAY HAVE COMMITTED ACTS OR OMISSIONS PUNISHABLE UNDER THE REVISED PENAL CODE, THE ARTICLES OF WAR OR OTHER SPECIAL LAWS COMMITTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE OAKWOOD MUTINY, THE MARINES STAND-OFF AND THE MANILA PEN INCIDENT AND RELATED INCIDENTS

WHEREAS, it is recognized that certain active and former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and their supporters have or may have committed acts or omissions which may be punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War and other laws in connection with July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-Off and the November 29, 2007 Manila Pen Incident and related incidents;

WHEREAS, there is a clamor from certain sectors of society urging the President to extend amnesty to said AFP personnel;

WHEREAS, Section 19, Article VII of the Constitution expressly vests the power to grant amnesty upon the President;

WHEREAS, in order to promote an atmosphere conducive to the attainment of a just, comprehensive and enduring peace and in line with the Government’s peace and reconciliation initiatives, there is a need to declare amnesty in favor of the said active and former personnel of the AFP and their supporters;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by Section 19, Article VII of the Philippine Constitution, do hereby DECLARE and PROCLAIM:

SECTION 1. Grant of Amnesty. – Amnesty is hereby granted to all active and former personnel of the AFP as well as their supporters who shall apply therefor and who have or may have committed acts or omissions punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War or other special laws in connection with, in relation or incident to the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-Off and/or the November 29, 2007 Manila Pen Incident and related incidents; Provided that amnesty shall not cover crimes against chastity and other crimes committed for personal ends.

SECTION 2. Where to Apply. – The concerned AFP personnel and their supporters may apply for amnesty under this Proclamation with the Department of National Defense (DND). The DND is hereby tasked with the functions and duties of receiving and processing applications for amnesty under this proclamation and determining whether the applicants are covered by amnesty under this Proclamation. The final decisions or determination of the DND shall be appealable to the Office of the President.

SECTION 3. Period of Application. – Applications for the grant of amnesty under this Proclamation shall be filed under oath with the DND within a period of ninety (90) days following the date of the publication of this Proclamation in two (2) newspapers of general circulation. The DND shall forthwith act on the same with dispatch.

SECTION 4. Effects. –

(a) Amnesty under this proclamation shall extinguish any criminal liability for acts committed in relation to, in connection with or incident to the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-Off and the November 29, 2007 Manila Pen Incident without prejudice to the grantee’s civil liability for injuries or damages caused to private persons.

(b) The grant of amnesty shall also effect the restoration of civil and political rights or entitlement that may have been suspended, lost or adversely affected by virtue of ant executive action and/or administrative criminal action or proceedings lodged against the grantee in connection with the subject incidents, including criminal conviction or any form, if any.

(c) All enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines whose applications for amnesty would be approved shall be entitled to reintegration or reinstatement, subject to existing laws and regulations. Officers of the AFP on the other hand shall not be entitled to reintegration or reinstatement into the service.

(d) The amnesty shall reinstate the right of AFP personnel to retirement and separation benefits, if so qualified under existing laws and regulations at the same time of the commission of the acts for which the amnesty is extended.

SECTION 5. Effectivity. – This Proclamation shall take effect immediately upon the signing thereof.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

DONE in the City of Manila, 11th day of October in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Ten.

(Sgd.) BENIGNO S. AQUINO III

By the President:

(Sgd.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary

Enrile is Senate President again

Enrile is Senate President again
By Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — A survivor of many political wars is keeping his grip on the Senate presidency, after all.

Earlier thought to be on his way out, reelected Senator Juan Ponce Enrile clinched the Senate leadership Sunday night by obtaining the support of 21 senators — a powerful majority in the 23-member upper chamber of Congress.

Senators said the 86-year-old lawmaker from Cagayan was assured of his continued hold on his position following a series of meetings and sudden developments during the weekend.

The most dramatic was Sunday’s last-minute announcement by Senator Francis Pangilinan, the erstwhile candidate of Malacañang, that he was withdrawing from the Senate presidential race in order to unify the chamber.

“It’s a truly united Senate,” Senator Edgardo Angara told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, saying that all blocs in the chamber have come together to support Enrile as their chief.

It was the second time in the Senate’s recent history that all parties and blocs have backed a common leader, Angara said.

Curiously, both cases involved Enrile and both happened while an Aquino was at the country’s helm — the first during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino and now, during the rule of her son, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

“In the first Aquino administration, it was Senator Enrile who was the lone minority member in the Senate. Now under the second Aquino administration, he is the head of the unity Senate,” Angara said.

“He [Enrile] has come full circle,” he added.

In a phone interview, Angara credited the sudden turn of events to efforts of the Liberal Party (LP), Nacionalista Party (NP) of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., and other blocs — including Angara’s — to come together and agree on a Senate President by the time the 15th Congress opens this Monday.

Since late last week, Pangilinan had been the frontrunner in the fight for the Senate leadership.

Enrile of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino only loomed as an alternative candidate after the NP and LP candidates failed to get the 13 votes needed to win the Senate presidency.

“Since neither side [Villar and Pangilinan] were able to make it, we agreed with Villar and the others that we need to elect one because it would be embarrassing for the Senate if we can’t rule even ourselves,” Angara said.

All different blocs “contributed” to the unity of the Senate, according to Angara.

He said Enrile was “the best option” because neither Pangilinan nor Villar was able to secure the 13 votes.

Angara said Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada would remain as Senate President pro tempore, while Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto would be the majority leader.

But with a unified Senate behind Enrile, Angara conceded that the question of who would be the minority leader was up in the air.

“We don’t know yet who would want to stand on the opposite aisle,” he said.

The Senate has 23 members with Aquino’s rise to the presidency. Only 21 of them can vote in Monday’s Senate presidency election.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV remains detained while Senator Panfilo Lacson has yet to surface after he left the country six months ago while facing charges for the double murder of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and Dacer’s driver.

Estrada, like Enrile, committed to support Pangilinan but Estrada made it clear to the LP senator that he would only support him if Enrile did not make a bid for the Senate leadership.

Pangilinan lost support for his bid after party and administration allies late last week confronted him on whether he could secure the necessary numbers and later pushed Enrile to go for the presidency himself.

Enrile had said he would do so if the senators would be able to get him the numbers.

In a statement on Sunday, Pangilinan said he gave up his bid for the top Senate post because he “realized there are political realities and developments that prevent us from securing the needed 13 votes resulting in a deadlock or stalemate.”

“Much as I would like to go down fighting, I realize that to continue with my bid would keep the Senate fragmented and disunited. The disunity must now end. I believe I can help make it happen by voluntarily stepping aside,” he said.

“It has been a very difficult experience for me and my family, but if I had to do this all over again for the cause of genuine change and reforms for our nation, I would. I would like to thank our people for their prayers and support. We fought a good fight,” Pangilinan said.

Senators were meeting on Sunday to deal with the committee chairmanships. There are 27 chairmanships up for grabs.

Drilon and Estrada said they did not think Enrile’s leadership in the Senate would be a problem for President Aquino.

Drilon said that Enrile from the very start had supported Pangilinan’s bid until the latter was unable to get the needed votes.

Likewise, he said Enrile would support the administration’s legislative agenda because not only was the Senate “an institution which will respond to the needs of the country” but one was inclined to support a “popular” President such as Mr. Aquino.

Estrada agreed that Enrile would not be a problem for Mr. Aquino since the two men were very much in good terms in the Senate before.

Malacañang said on Sunday it still expected to deal with a Senate “friendly” to President Aquino despite the withdrawal of Pangilinan from the Senate presidential fight.

“We look forward to working and cooperating with a friendly Senate,” the President’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, said. “It’s important that we have a friendly Senate [for] our legislative agenda.”

Lacierda said that in hoping for a friendly Senate, Malacañang was not fearing that the senators might scrutinize the Aquino administration for possible corruption.

“The Aquino administration has promised not to engage in any corrupt practices that’s why we are not afraid of that,” he said. “What we are more concerned of really is the legislative agenda the President has in mind, which will require cooperation from the Senate.”