Cayetano welcome to help

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — MALACAÑANG yesterday welcomed the offer of opposition Senator-elect Alan Peter Cayetano to support President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s legislative agenda and to go beyond political differences for the good of the country.

Presidential adviser for political affairs Gabriel Claudio said Cayetano’s statement was an assurance that opposition lawmakers would avoid unnecessary hostilities with Malacañang that would block legislation and hurt the public.

“We thank Senator Cayetano for his willingness to support… legislative measures which he believes will be good for the country,” Claudio said in a text message to journalists.

“His gesture gives us reason to be optimistic that members of the incoming Senate can transcend partisan boundaries in support of issues and legislation that will redound to the welfare of our people.”

In his remarks yesterday, Cayetano, who led last year’s failed impeachment effort, said he realized Mrs. Arroyo would not step down. “And so I would be willing to support the programs or bills of the administration if I find these to be worth supporting,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the administration had made some strides in improving the economy.

But he stressed that he would remain an opposition senator and continue to expose irregularities in government.

Turning to the Senate leadership, Claudio said regardless of who took the Senate presidency, the Palace was hopeful that the executive and legislative branches could adopt a common agenda that would provide better government services, ensure economic growth and improve the living conditions of the people.

Senate President Manuel Villar looked set for re-election to the post, after gaining the support of 14 to 15 senators, despite a campaign to choose Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. instead.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she was one of the first senators to sign an endorsement for Villar, adding he would observe “enlightened skepticism” in dealing with the Palace.

“I support Manny because I believe in continuity of leadership. He has already stamped his leadership style on the Senate, and it would be more efficient to keep him in the post to promote everybody’s comfort level.”

Earlier, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Villar had obtained enough support to be re-elected Senate president.

Outgoing Senator Sergio Osmeña III, for his part, blamed the presidential ambitions of several opposition senators for the split in their ranks over the Senate presidency.

He said three opposition senators—Loren Legarda, Panfilo Lacson and Manuel Roxas II—had pushed to elect Pimentel instead because they didn’t want Villar to have the advantage of being Senate president going into the 2010 presidential elections.

A Senate source told Standard Today that it was Roxas who initiated the move against Villar, and later got the support of Lacson and Legarda.

Roxas and Lacson were the first to announce a secret ballot among opposition senators to choose between Villar and Pimentel. The ballot never took place.

Speaking at a weekly forum, Pimentel said he would congratulate Villar if he had mustered the support of 14 senators.

But he said that he would continue to contest the Senate presidency until he could confirm that Villar had the numbers to win.