The dispute regarding Senate chairmanships for the 18th Congress was deemed “95 percent resolved,” according to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III on Thursday, June 6.
Sotto said that there are only a few committees left for discussion and resolution following a dinner meeting at Senator Manny Pacquiao’s residence in Dasmariñas Village, Makati on Wednesday, June 5.
Sharing details from the senators’ evening gathering, the Senate president said the assignments are at “95 percent. We assume all is well. Just one or two committees (more). Only one to two committees remain under minimal contention.”
Among the lawmakers present during the meeting included incumbent Senators Ralph Recto, Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, Loren Legarda, Richard Gordon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Gringo Honasan, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara.
Newly-elected Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos and Francis Tolentino also participated in the meeting.
Only four senators from the supermajority bloc were unable to attend the evening gathering — Sen. Pia Cayetano was abroad while Sen. Koko Pimentel and Sen. Ping Lacson had family events they could not leave. Sen. Cynthia Villar was also absent during the meeting.
Sotto requested the senators, even those who were absent, to submit a list of three committees of their choice. However, they still observed the equity of the incumbent rule wherein incumbents were prioritized on their committee preferences.
The Senate president disclosed the tentative committee assignments that will be confirmed through voting when the 18th Congress opens on July 22. According to Sotto, cooperation is needed to ensure that the promises during campaign season will be kept and honored.
‘’Importante na makapagtulungan kami para maisakatuparan ang aming mga adbokasiya at mga ipinangako noong kampanya para sa ikabubuti ng ating kapwa Pilipino (It is important that we cooperate so that our advocacies and promises during the political campaign would be pushed through to help the Filipino people),’’ he added as reported by Manila Bulletin.
Tentative committee chairmanships include Pimentel on foreign relations; Poe on banks and financial institutions; Tolentino on local governments; Dela Rosa on public order, and dangerous drugs; Revilla on civil service, and public information and mass media; Marcos on social welfare and development; Cayetano on ways and means.
The upper house also planned on splitting the committee on education into two: basic education to be chaired by Gatchalian and higher education to be chaired by Villanueva. Go will chair the committees on health and housing and urban development, and sports.
“We, as newly elected senators, respect the tradition of equity of incumbents and appreciate how the senior senators have been very accommodating with our requests and concerns. The majority bloc will decide in the coming weeks on how to best lead these committees,” Go said as reported by the Philippine Star.
“Sa tulong ng mga kasamahan ko sa Senado, magtatrabaho at magseserbisyo kami para maiparamdam sa bawat Pilipino ang tunay na pagbabago na ipinangako ng ating Pangulong Duterte (With the help of my colleagues at the Senate, we will work and serve so that every Filipino will experience the true change that President Duterte has promised),” he added.
“What’s important is that we work together so we can push our advocacies and promises during the campaign for the welfare of the people,” he added.
At the Pandesal Forum, Gatchalian said senators would be meeting again to discuss the chamber’s legislative agenda and align this with the Duterte administration’s priorities.
“Of course we want to, as much as possible, harmonize the legislative agenda of the Congress and the Executive side,” he said.
Likely to be prioritized are the remaining packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps bill, and amendments to the Public Services, Foreign Investment and Retail Trade Acts.