Unless one or more of the winning senators decide to move to the opposition, Sen. Risa Hontiveros may end up as a minority of one.
Hontiveros is the sole opposition senator likely to enter the Senate’s dozen winners of the 2022 elections based on results of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) transparency server. They will join the 12 hold-over senators, whose terms expire in 2025.
Trends set since last week’s elections show that Hontiveros is likely to land at the 11th spot, just ahead of returning senator Jinggoy Estrada.
Hontiveros ran under the ticket of Vice-president Leni Robredo as a member of the Akbayan party-list group, identified as a progressive organization.
She is one of only two women who made it in the Senate race, the other being Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, herself a former senator seeking a return to the upper chamber of the bicameral Congress.
Fellow opposition senator Leila de Lima failed in her re-election bid, hampered by her still being incarcerated during the campaign period.
After serving a maximum second six-year term, senior Sen. Franklin Drilon retires, while the other remaining opposition senator, Francisco ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan ran for vice-president as Robredo’s running mate.
With her win, the 56-year-old Hontiveros begins her second six-year term as senator.
There remains a possibility that she will not be alone, as former Senate President Koko Pimentel said he was considering joining forces with Hontiveros in the minority.
Pimentel is president of one wing of the PDP-Laban but the Comelec recently ruled that the other wing of the party headed by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi is the duly recognized party that can call itself PDP-Laban.
This, despite the party having been founded by his father, the late senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.
Pimentel told local media he was still “torn” between staying in the majority, or joining Hontiveros as minority senator.
He said, “The minority’s role is to check the majority; follow the rules, give time to opposing views, allow improvement to legislation, etc.”
He added that the minority’s role “is really not to oppose the administration, although that seems to be the prevalent impression.”
Pimentel said he will undergo an “inward reflection” and discuss the matter with his colleagues.
One reason why Pimentel might join the minority, and therefore the opposition, is his having strongly opposed the presidential candidacy of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was endorsed by the Cusi-wing of the party.
PDP-Laban was co-founded by his late father along with the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. The pair strongly opposed the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who had both founders incarcerated.
Pimentel maintains that likely President-elect Marcos Jr. is the embodiment of everything the party has fought against, and Cusi’s endorsement “is also the gravest contradiction of the history, struggle, aspirations, principles, and objectives of the true PDP-Laban.”
The Philippine Senate is unique in that the majority and minority are usually but not always also part of the administration and the opposition, respectively. Independent senators sometimes cross party lines and vote against the administration even if they consider themselves part of that administration.
This was the case in the last Congress, when pro-Duterte senators went against the President, specifically the Health Secretary’s COVID-19 programs which they said was riddled with graft.
If Hontiveros ends up as the sole opposition senator and a minority of one, she can still expect support for some of her advocacies such as her Anti-Discrimination Bill, also known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Equality Bill. She is also a proponent of divorce, as the Philippines is one of the very few countries in the world where divorce is still not legalized.
The three other hold-over lady senators are Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar and Nancy Binay, who are seen to support at least parts of Hontiveros’ pro-female agenda.