LP undecided on Manny or Nene

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Members of the Liberal Party in the upper chamber have yet to agree on who among the candidates for the Senate presidency they would support.

Most senators are one in saying that the Senate presidency contest is a toss-up between incumbent Senate President Manuel Villar and Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. Both Villar and Pimentel are not LP members.

The winning senatorial candidates and incumbent senators allied with the Genuine Opposition will meet Friday to conduct a secret voting to settle the Senate presidency issue and the matter of chairmanships of various committees.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said that ideally, the party should vote as a bloc but as of yesterday, the members have yet to arrive at a consensus. “Ideally we’d like to be united, but certain realities come into play. Therefore that makes it difficult but we are endeavoring to unite,” Pangilinan said.

The LP bloc in the Senate in the 14th Congress will include Benigno Aquino III, Manuel Roxas II, Rodolfo Biazon, and Pangilinan.

With Roxas reportedly eyeing the presidency in 2010, the LP could veer away from Villar who is also considered as a serious contender in the presidential elections.

But Pangilinan has close ties with Villar, both being members of the “Wednesday Group” that also includes Ralph Recto, Joker Arroyo, and Vice President Noli de Castro.

Roxas admitted that the LP bloc has yet to convince Pangilinan to agree to a common candidate for the group to support. But Roxas believes they could eventually convince Pangilinan to go with the group.

“We hope so and Pangilinan said that what would prevail is the interest of the party and the prospect of pushing our legislative agenda,” Roxas said.

Pangilinan said that having ran as an independent candidate, he would not participate in the Friday secret balloting of the opposition group.

“I think this is an internal matter with respect to the Genuine Opposition. There are information that I have received that some are expressing concerns about why others are being asked to participate. So until they have resolved that matter, it’s better that we let them do that on their own,” he said.

But Pangilinan said he would have to participate in the selection of the Senate president when the final vote of all the 23 senators would have to be reckoned. The Senate convenes on July 23.

In the press briefing, the LP presented its “Affirmative Action Plan,” saying it would support the bid of the candidates for House speaker and Senate president who could commit to support the party’s program of government.

“The LP agenda is people-centered, and not politics driven. What unites us in the Liberal Party is a common desire to put our people first: first in reaping the benefits of an improving economy, first in the protection of human rights, first in agenda of national government,” Roxas said.

The seven-point legislative agenda of LP seeks to achieve the following goals: more money in the pockets of workers even without wage hikes, better brains and bodies for young Filipinos using Expanded Value-Added Tax funds; real social reforms, affordable medicine, OFW benefits and consumer protection; economic partnership with safety nets; making the streets safe; soldiers with honor and dignity; and economic freedom for farmers.