MANILA — Newly elected senators are poised to get Senate committees aligned with their respective advocacies, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Thursday, as lawmakers finalized panel leaderships ahead of the opening of the new session of Congress next month.
Gatchalian said Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go will get the health committee. Incoming Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, a former top cop who led the administration's anti-drug and peace and order campaign, will head the committees on public order and dangerous drugs, and peace, unification and reconciliation.
“As of last night nakuha niya (he got the) committee on health,” Gatchalian said of Go. “This is in line with his advocacy, 'yung Malasakit Centers.”
Go was known to have led the creation of government's Malasakit Centers, a one-stop shop for patients in need of immediate medical assistance. The centers are manned by staffers from the health and social welfare departments, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Gatchalian said another neophyte, Senator-elect Francis Tolentino, former head of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, will lead the Senate Committee on Local Government.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said earlier Thursday that Senators-elect Pia Cayetano, Imee Marcos and Tolentino were being considered to head the Senate's ways and means committee, which handles tax reform matters, among others.
Sen. Grace Poe will, meanwhile, retain her chairmanship of the Committee on Public Services while Sen. Richard Gordon will still head the powerful investigative panel Blue Ribbon Committee, Gatchalian said.
He also revealed that the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture would likely be split between him and Villanueva.
“Yun ang isang proposal para ma-accommodate kaming dalawa, sa akin basic [education], sa kaniya technical-vocational [education],” he said.
(That's one proposal to accommodate both of us, basic education will be under me, [Villanueva will handle] technical-vocational.)
Villanueva used to be head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Gatchalian said it is similar to what happened when the Senate Committee on Games and Sports was split into two, with games going to Sen. Panfilo Lacson and the latter going to Sen. Manny Pacquiao when the boxing champ was a neophyte lawmaker in 2016.
“The proposal is Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture and the other one is (Committee on) Higher Education and Technical and Vocational Training,” said Gatchalian.
Incumbent and newly-elected senators met at Pacquiao's residence Wednesday night to discuss the matter of committee chairmanships and Senate leadership.
Gatchalian, among those present, described the meeting as "socials" and that there was a “meeting of minds.”
SOTTO LIKELY TO REMAIN SENATE PRESIDENT
Meanwhile, Gatchalian said Senate President Vicente Sotto III would most likely retain his position as head of the upper chamber.
“I can say this with certainty, ang susunod nating president ay si (our next president is) Senator Tito Sotto. The incumbent senators are also supportive,” Gatchalian said at a media forum.
“I would say 99 percent (likely). 'Yung 1 percent 'yung pagboto (The 1 percent is the voting).”
He said Sotto "has the numbers" and that even new senators were supportive of his leadership.
Asked if Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III has a chance of reclaiming the Senate presidency, Gatchalian said the former Senate leader did not signify such intent.
"In this case it’s very clear that Malacañang is not meddling with the Senate leadership," he said.
As to how the Senate dynamics might change with the entry of first-time senators, Gatchalian said it "will focus on the PDP bloc... because they have the numbers and are influential.”
“In my opinion since PDP[-Laban] is the biggest bloc now…Ngayon naging 5 na (now there are 5 from the party in the Senate). 'Yung tatlong papasok (the three coming in) have direct lines with the President,” he said of the ruling party.
He was likely referring to incoming senators close to President Rodrigo Duterte: Go, his former aide, Dela Rosa, his former police chief, and Tolentino, his former political adviser. - with reports from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News