Mar-Manny feud worsens

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — SENATOR Manuel “Mar” Roxas II yesterday broke his silence on the issue of Senate presidency and took potshots at Senate President Manuel Villar.

Roxas did not actually name names in his statement sent to members of the media through a text message but it was clear he was referring to Villar who reportedly had the numbers to bag the Senate presidency, with support from both opposition and administration senators.

In his statement, Roxas denied that he and fellow opposition Senators Panfilo Lacson and Loren Legarda were the ones responsible for the split in the ranks of the opposition over the issue of the Senate presidency.

Earlier, an opposition senator said the opposition would have been united had not Roxas initiated the move against Villar-which later got the backing of Lacson and Legarda—but Villar got wind of it and launched a successful counter-offensive.

“There is an attempt to pin on two other senators [Ping and Loren] and myself the blame for a fragmented opposition in the Senate. Yet, whoever wins the Senate presidency by courting the administration senators is clearly the purveyor of division within the opposition’s ranks,” Roxas said.

Roxas, Lacson and Legarda—all considered as presidential timbers in the 2010 elections—were reportedly rooting for Senator Aquilino Pimentel for Senate president.

According to Roxas, whatever the outcome of the Senate presidency race, he and the other Liberal Party senators—except Senator Francis Pangilinan—will remain within the minority bloc.

“The people’s mandate in the last election is clear: an independent, fiscalizing Senate under the leadership and control of the opposition. I follow that mandate,” Roxas said. The LP is grooming Roxas as the party’s presidential candidate in 2010.

Pangilinan, although an LP officer, is also a member of the “Wednesday Club”, which includes Villar, administration Senator Joker Arroyo, former Senator Ralph Recto, and Vice President Noli de Castro.

Reports earlier said that Villar has secured the support of 14 senators, including Pangilinan and Gregorio Honasan who both ran as independent in the May 14 elections, the eight-member administration bloc in the Senate, and opposition Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Francis Escudero.

The administration bloc in the Senate includes Arroyo and Edgardo Angara; as well as incumbent Senators Pia Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Richard Gordon, Lito Lapid, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

While (Alan Peter) Cayetano and Escudero refused to name their choice of Senate president, they said they would remain oppositionists no matter who they choose as the leader of the Upper Chamber. Villar also ran and won under the Genuine Opposition banner.

Osmeña said the move against Villar, which started even before the May 14 polls, got the support of other opposition stalwarts with presidential ambition because all of them were worried, wrongly, that if Villar gets the Senate presidency, he would have an advantage going to the 2010 presidential contest.

According to Osmeña, since this group does not have the numbers, they tried to win over the administration senators but Villar beat them to the draw.

“They couldn’t blame Manny, he just reacted. And they [the group moving against him] were outflanked,” Osmeña said.