MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Manuel Villar’s hold on the chamber’s leadership is on shaky ground over the choice of who to chair the powerful blue-ribbon committee, administration Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Wednesday.
“That is [Villar’s] problem,” Santiago said.
“If he votes in favor of the administration, opposition senators might desert him, and vice versa. If he votes in favor of the opposition, administration senators will desert him and look for another president,” she told reporters in an interview.
But Villar said the issue of who should head the committee is easy to settle.
“I think that so many here in the Senate are qualified to handle it. I won’t worry about it,” he said in Filipino.
When pressed, he refused to even hint if the post would go to a member of the opposition.
“I cannot give any hint to be fair to those we are considering. Of course it is important not to mention their names,” he said.
Santiago noted the “very strange” situation in which a majority of senators chose Villar as Senate president but could not decide who should chair the committee whose tasks include investigating official wrongdoing.
“This is very strange because normally the majority [who vote for] the Senate president is congenial and homogenous, they vote as a bloc on major issues, but not in this particular instance,” she said.
“In our coalition that voted for the Senate president, we agreed only on who should be Senate president. We agreed on nothing else,” she added.
Santiago suggested that for the Senate to start working, it finish choosing the chairmanships of all committees except the blue-ribbon.
“As long as we are not elected chairs of various committees, all those references that begin the Senate agenda every afternoon will be useless because we don’t know who is the chair of the committee to which the particular bill is being assigned,” she said.
Villar said the Senate majority would also consider giving committee chairmanships to members of the minority, a practice the chamber traditionally observes.