Senate blue ribbon panel a draw between Tolentino, Cayetano


Senator-elect Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Francis Tolentino. FILE PICTURES

The new Senate leadership is now torn between Senator Francis Tolentino and Senator-elect Alan Peter Cayetano as the next head of the powerful Blue Ribbon Committee.

The prized chairmanship of the committee to be vacated by incumbent Senator Richard Gordon had already been offered to Tolentino and by Friday the senator “had already accepted it,” according to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who is on about to be the next president of the Senate.

But on Thursday, Cayetano expressed a desire to chair the Blue Ribbon Committee, known for launching investigations into government corruption or wrongdoing, as a condition of joining the majority bloc.

He said he told Zubiri, who wanted him to join the majority, that he was willing to do so in exchange for chairing the panel, as he wanted to play his role as “taxman”.

Speaking to reporters on Viber, Zubiri said on Friday that the matter was now out of his hands as Tolentino had already accepted the job.

“I would need to consult with the majority at the request of my friend Senator Alan Cayetano,” he said.

22 against 2

“We have already discussed this with Senator Tolentino and he had already accepted the chairmanship of the blue ribbon committee, so it is not my decision to make at this time,” Zubiri said.

“Unfortunately, a number of senators are on vacation for the next two weeks before I can call a first super majority meeting. We can only make a decision then,” he said.

The Blue Ribbon Committee is officially called the Committee on Public Officials Accountability and Investigations.

Meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, the presumed Senate Minority Leader in the 19th Congress, said a “minority of two” in the Senate can still do a credible job of controlling the 24-member chamber.

“If it’s going to be 22 to two, then both will just have to do their best,” he told the Inquirer on Friday.

“The ‘minority,’ no matter how small, should always strive to do their job of ‘controlling’ the majority,” he said in a Viber message.

Pimentel and Senator Risa Hontiveros are the only senators so far to have indicated their intention to be in the minority.

Next Minority Leader

Asked Friday if anyone else wanted to join, Pimentel, himself a former Senate speaker and son of the late Senate Speaker Aquilino Pimentel Jr., said, “Nothing to announce. The minority is really a minority.

On Thursday, Pimentel said in an interview with CNN Philippines that Hontiveros had agreed to nominate him as the next minority leader.

Hontiveros, in a message shared with reporters, said she “would be honored to appoint him Minority Leader, or serve as Minority Leader myself, if that’s what we ultimately decide.”

Pimentel said he and Hontiveros already had a game plan for how they would do their job of “taxing” and controlling the excesses of the majority.

“Both be active. Observe the division of labor. Very good strategist. Choose the topics of intervention, etc. he told the Inquirer.

Of the minority senators, only Hontiveros was re-elected.

RELATED STORY:

Cayetano ready to join majority Senate bloc, but only if he leads Blue Ribbon group


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