With the 12 winning senators in the May 9 elections proclaimed, the race is on for the next Senate president, a choice that will determine how the chamber will work with the administration of presumptive president Bongbong Marcos.
At least three senators are reportedly gunning for the position to be vacated by Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, a number which Senator-elect Alan Peter Cayetano also gave in an interview with reporters on Wednesday based on information he receives.
Those reportedly vying for the position are Sen. Cynthia Villar, who topped the 2019 senatorial race, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was reelected this year, and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who also received a fresh mandate from voters.
Zubiri himself confirmed that he was being pushed to run for the Senate presidency.
"Nagbuo kami ng bloke.... Sa grupo na yan pipili kami ng lider. Isa ako sa mga itinutulak sa grupo na yun. And I'm honored to be chosen as one of the leaders of that group," he told reporters in a press briefing.
The senator from Bukidnon cited his experience as majority leader for three terms as to his capacity to become the next Senate chief.
"Kung sa mastery of rules, kaya natin yan. Kung consensus building, kaya rin natin yan... I think lahat naman kami, we're all ready," he said.
Gatchalian also confirmed in a One News interview last week that he was vying for the Senate leadership, saying that he has "good plans" for the institution.
“I bring to the table my work in passing important legislation on education and energy… They know me as very serious with work,” Gatchalian said as quoted by Philippine Star.
The election of the new Senate President is expected to take place on the morning of July 25 during the opening of the first regular session of the 19th Congress, and the day Marcos also delivers his first State of the Nation Address.
Majority, minority bloc
Several moves are also being done to form the majority and the minority bloc of the next Senate.
While there is no exact definition on the composition of the two blocs, the members of the majority bloc are traditionally allies of the current administration, while the members of the minority are normally allied with other political blocs who serve as fiscalizers in the chamber.
Newly-elected senator Raffy Tulfo said he prefers to be part of the majority bloc.
"I know na kapag nasa majority ako, mas madali kong maisusulong ang mga batas na gusto ko. Mas malaki ang aking magagawa sapagkat makakakuha ako ng cooperation sa mas nakakaraming miyembro ng Senado," he said.
Sen. Sonny Angara on Wednesday said reelected Sen. Joel Villanueva could be a contender for the majority leadership post, who is in charge of laying out the measures to be tackled by the Senate.
Villanueva, however, said he doesn't mind which position he will be given in the next Senate, adding he was even "open to being part of the minority."
Reelected Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the lone opposition candidate who won in the May 9 polls, meanwhile said she was now in talks with possible members of the Senate minority bloc. One of those she was talking to is Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, who used to be a Senate president himself.
"Ako ay umaasa na may posibilidad na maipagpatuloy sa 19th Congress ang pagkakaroon ng isang tunay, gaano man kaliit, at epektibong minorya tulad ng meron kami ngayon sa outgoing 18th Congress," Hontiveros said.
Cayetano said he doesn’t matter to him which bloc he would be placed. What’s important for him is how the Senate would perform under the new administration.
“If the members of the Senate, most of them, decide to have a principled, independent Senate, then I would be part of the majority,” he said.
“If the Senate, most of them feel like they will have a Senate that will be part of this administration in a way that they feel that they should not fiscalize, then I cannot be part of that,” he added.
What to expect in the next Senate
Aside from a new set of leaders, the next Senate will also see three pairs of senators who are family members.
These include Cayetano and his sister, incumbent Sen. Pia Cayetano who will serve until 2025, Sen. Cynthia Villar and her son, Senator-elect Mark Villar, and reelected brothers JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada.
Robin Padilla, who topped the 2022 senatorial race, joins former action stars Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid in the roster of senators for the 19th Congress, along with two former broadcasters, Tulfo, and Loren Legarda.
The current Senate will resume session later this month where the canvassing and proclamation of the winning president and vice president in the May 9 elections will be held.