By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor
Three newcomers elected to the Philippine Senate following the May 13 midterm elections – former presidential assistant Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, former Philippine National Police Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, and former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino – have revealed to media their plans once Congress resumes sessions and they take their place in the upper chamber.
Go said he plans to sponsor a bill that would create a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, even as he added that he may invite outgoing Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to testify on the claims of “Bitoy” that the opposition was actively seeking the removal of President Rodrigo Duterte.
His threat to summon Trillanes is considered a retaliation against the time that Trillanes threaten Go to testify about a weapons deal.
For his part, Dela Rosa told media he plans to file a bill creating a Department of Water.
This, after half of Metro Manila suffered a serious water crisis weeks before the May elections.
Dela Rosa raised eyebrows when he announced after winning that he did not know enough about the ins and outs of the legislative branch where he now belongs and that he wanted to attend a seminar to acquaint himself with his new job.
It turns out that Dela Rosa was keeping silent about his credentials. He actually has a doctorate in development administration from the University of Southeastern Philippines.
As expected, Dela Rosa will focus on law and order and security matters in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Tolentino, who previously served as Tagaytay City mayor and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman, has kept a low profile after his victory but is known for his disaster preparedness advocacy. A lawyer and retired general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Tolentino almost won in 2016 but blamed his loss when he ran as independent.
This is Go’s and Dela Rosa’s first foray into politics while the second time’s the charm for Tolentino. He lost in 2016.
All three are close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte and are part of the 20-member super majority in the Senate. The opposition bets were wiped out in the senatorial race but there are still four senators in the upper chamber whose terms expire in 2022.
While Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto said he expects the Senate to remain independent, the addition of three newcomers who are seen as being close to the President means that the shift to a federal form of government that Duterte has long espoused will have an easy time becoming a law. That law, however, will require a nationwide plebiscite and the majority of the electorate must agree to the constitutional change.
The three new lawmakers are expected to be appointed to Senate committees formerly headed by three senators who are no longer in the upper chamber. Bam Aquino and JV Ejercito did not make it to the Top 12, while Loren Legarda has completed her final term.
Sotto also said that he does not expect any major overhaul in the Senate, since a change of leadership would make President Duterte “a lame duck.”
The current Senate is “friendly and cooperative” with Malacañang but “We’re not subservient,” Sotto told media over the weekend.
Any change could result in the President’s legislative agenda facing serious roadblocks, Sotto said.
Go, Dela Rosa and Tolentino belong to the PDP-Laban, the party that propelled then Davao City Mayor Duterte to the presidency. Along with Senators Manny Pacquiao and Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel, PDP-Laban has the single biggest bloc in the Senate.
Sotto belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition which only has Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Lito Lapid.
It remains to be seen if Pimentel will attempt to regain the Senate presidency, a post he held before he was voted out by Sotto and his allies.