MANILA, Philippines - Confident that a majority of the administration Team PNoy senatorial candidates would win, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III revealed yesterday that Sen. Franklin Drilon is the most qualified to replace Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in the 16th Congress.
“President Aquino already announced or floated the name of Sen. Drilon and I think Drilon is well qualified to be the next Senate president. And Sen. Drilon’s relationship with Sen. Enrile is very good,” Osmeña said.
Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Senado at the Senate building, Osmeña added that he does not see any problem with Drilon becoming the next Senate president.
“Of course, there might be a dark horse who might have ambition but I don’t see anything at this time,” he said.
Osmeña said change in the Senate leadership “is already a given since two months ago.”
“We knew already that there will be changes in July when the new Congress comes about. We can practically be definite it will happen,” he said.
Osmeña said the pro-LP senators have allied with the Nacionalista Party (NP) grop led by Sen. Manny Villar.
“The division today is between UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) and Team PNoy,” he said.
UNA senatorial candidates said it would be up to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to conduct an investigation on the Christmas cash gifts given by Enrile to senators last Christmas.
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay of UNA said that Cayetano, as chairman of the Senate ethics committee, has the authority to start an investigation to allow Enrile to explain his side on the issue.
Another UNA aspirant Nancy Binay said it is Cayetano’s decision if he would investigate Enrile.
“If there would be an investigation, I’m sure Senate President Enrile can answer the accusations against him,” Binay added.
UNA campaign manager Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said the Senate President can defend himself.
He said Enrile is willing to face the probe because there was no anomaly and he could easily defend himself, Tiangco said.
On Wednesday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed a complaint against Cayetano before the Ombudsman for his alleged failure to act on an ethics complaint against Enrile.
VACC accused Cayetano of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The group said Cayetano had ignored its complaint regarding Enrile’s grant of millions of pesos as Christmas gifts to his fellow senators last December.
VACC said the complaint was filed on Jan. 21 but Cayetano did not act on it even if it sent a follow-up letter to the senator last Feb. 13.
Cayetano has vowed to attend to the group’s complaint as soon as Congress resumes session.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Escudero called for reforms yesterday in the use of the P25-billion Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF), the official name of the congressional pork barrel.
He made the call in the wake of the latest Commission on Audit (COA) report that nearly P200 million in PDAF allocations of Enrile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. ended up with a nonexistent private foundation.
Every senator receives P200 million a year from PDAF, while each member of the House of Representatives gets P70 million.
Escudero said senators and congressmen should make a detailed listing of their projects and beneficiary-agencies, foundations and non-government organizations (NGO) for more transparency.
“If we have resorted to line-item detail in the national budget, we should do likewise with PDAF for more transparency so there would be no suspicion and no mystery happening,” he said.
He said the more transparent use of the pork barrel could help restore the credibility of the Senate, which has been hounded by a succession of controversies.
“Before, when you meet a member of Congress, you shake his hand. Now, you shake your head,” he lamented.
COA reported that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla allocated nearly P200 million to the Department of Agriculture for livelihood projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. However, the funds ended up with a bogus NGO that auditors identified as Pangkabuhayan Foundation.
Enrile and Estrada claimed that they did not know the foundation or any of its officers.
But the COA report stated that it was the offices of Enrile and Estrada that nominated Pangkabuhayan as the final recipient of their funds.
The two senators, joined by Revilla, have called for an investigation of the irregularity.
Escudero said if it were the Senate that would investigate, people would treat its inquiry with suspicion. He said the inquiry should be left to other independent agencies. – With Jess Diaz, Alexis Romero