Sotto to keep Senate presidency, Alvarez plots return as Speaker

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — Senators have agreed that Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III will keep his post in the next Congress, while Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez will try to regain the House speakership.

The Senate majority bloc agreed in a caucus on Monday that the current leadership of the upper chamber will be retained in the 18th Congress.

Sotto said that even presumptive Senate neophytes Christopher “Bong” Go, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino have expressed support for his leadership.

“That’s how I gauged it. [Senator] Manny Pacquiao was doing all the talking. Siya nagsabi, kasama namin silang tatlo. Sabi niya, ang gusto natin, suportahan pa rin leadership ni Senate President Sotto,” Sotto said, referring to a dinner some incumbent senators had with presumptive winners in the Senate race on Saturday.

[Translation: That’s how I gauged it. Senator Manny Pacquiao was doing all the talking. He said that in their presence. He said, we want to support the leadership of Senate President Sotto.]

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri are both expected to stay in their posts.

Meanwhile, most of the incumbent senators will also get to keep their committee chairmanships, in keeping with the Senate’s tradition.

“General agreement was equity of the incumbent. It’s the tradition anyway. Unless one decides to relinquish chairmanship,” Sotto said.

Dela Rosa, however, already secured top seats in key Senate panels.

Zubiri said Dela Rosa will be heading the Public Order committee, which probed the conduct of the drug war. Its current chair, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, will move to head the Defense panel.

Senate Defense Committee Chair Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan will be stepping down next month.

Meanwhile, Zubiri said Go has asked to head the health committee, which is now chaired by Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito. Ejercito is around 80,000 votes away from piercing the winners’ circle, admitting that he has only a “very small” chance of winning.

Zubiri said no one objected to Go’s request.

Senate leaders said the majority bloc in the chamber in the next Congress will have 20 members, while the minority bloc will shrink to four members.

Opposition Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV ranks 14th in the partial, official count of the Commission on Elections.

Alvarez, Speaker again?

While things appear to have been ironed out in the Senate, the top post in the House is still up for grabs.

Among the contenders is Alvarez, who had held the position from 2016, before being kicked out by his peers after President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address, and been replaced by Pampanga 1st District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I will give it a try,” Alvarez told reporters over the phone. “Gusto kong makatulong doon sa last half ng administrasyon. Kung ano pa ‘yung mga hindi nagagawang mga programa ay gusto ko ring makatulong.”

[Translation: I will give it a try. … I want to help in the last half of the administration. Whatever programs have not yet been accomplished, I would want to help out.]

Alvarez believes that he still enjoys the support of many lawmakers, even if a majority of them voted to oust him as Speaker.

However, Alvarez said that he has yet to talk to the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, whom congressmen said had a hand in the former Speaker’s downfall.

Aside from Alvarez, other possible contenders for the speakership are Taguig Rep.-elect Alan Peter Cayetano, Marinduque Rep.Lord Allan Jay Velasco and comebacking Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Ruling party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan has also floated possible candidates for the speakership, particularly San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, Cavite Reps. Alex Advincula and Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, Malabon Rep. Federico Sandoval, Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, and South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Joyce Ilas and Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.