Untrammeled Senate seen

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

While Malacañang on Tuesday noted an overwhelming victory for the administration bets, the Palace still sees a Senate working independently, with its members criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte when they see fit, but which the leadership says is proof of the country’s vibrant democracy.

Not even the victory of former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and the President’s former political adviser Francis Tolentino would make a subservient Senate, which is traditionally independent and was never controlled by Malacañang.

This was the view expressed by Palace spokesman and chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo.

“If you notice the history of the Senate, it shows that members of that chamber have been independent ever since,” Panelo said, adding “No Senate has ever been under any President. They always rise above partisan considerations when issues involve national interests, security and the interests of the Filipino people.”

“We expect them to be fealty to the duties imposed on them by the Constitution and the laws. They have to support the President when the agenda of the President is for the good of the people and they will have to oppose it, if they feel in their conscience, it runs counter to the interest of the nation,” he added.

Panelo cited reelected Sen. Sonny Angara as an example of a lawmaker who works with an independent mind.

“If you noticed during the campaign, the President keeps on saying about Senator Angara, ‘I like this man who keeps criticizing me but has valid reasons for that,’” Panelo quoted Mr. Duterte as saying.

But he raised the possibility of less clashes between the two chambers of Congress with the present set of lawmakers likely to work with the Executive department on several issues where they can find common grounds.

“Like, hopefully, there would no longer be a stalemate in the national budget,” Panelo said. “It was an issue which divided both Houses.”

However, he said the role of the opposition in the Senate is appreciated by the Palace as crucial to keeping a vibrant democracy.

“The opposition’s role is vital, too,” he said.

Only two candidates who were not endorsed by either President Duterte or his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte clinched Senate slots.

Grace Poe, a rival of Duterte in the 2016 presidential polls, is assured of one of the 12 slots. She is running No. 2 behind likely topnotcher reelectionist Sen. Cynthia Villar. Poe topped the 2013 senatorial race.

The other one is comebacking Sen. Lito Lapid, who ran under the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Panelo, meanwhile, praised the opposition Otso Diretso, for running a good fight.

As of yesterday afternoon, four Otso Diretso candidates have accepted defeat.

Partial and unofficial count from the Commission on Elections Transparency Server, which has covered more than 90 percent of the total election returns, showed a near-sweep by the administration bets.

Aside from Villar, Poe, Go, De la Rosa, Lapid, Angara and Tolentino, also showing good numbers were Imee Marcos, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., “Koko” Pimentel III, Nancy Binay and Pia Cayetano.

Reelectionist Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito was still in the running at No. 13.

Another reelectionist in Sen. Bam Aquino was the top-tanking member of the Otso Diretso at No. 14, followed by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas at No. 16.

Otso Diretso bets Samira Gutoc, Florin Hilbay and Erin Tanada have already conceded after the latest count ranked them at 27th, 25th and 29th, respectively.

The three made the announcement at a press conference at the Liberal Party headquarters in Quezon City.

Earlier, fellow Otso Diretso bet lawyer Romulo Macalintal also accepted the results of the election.

The two other members of the Otso Diretso are Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and lawyer Chel Diokno.

With Mario J. Mallari