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Senators to keep Sotto as their leader

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By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Majority of senators have no plans to replace Senate President Vicente Sotto III as their leader even with a new set of members in the 18th Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday clarified this when asked on the possibility of electing a new Senate President after the midterm elections.

“There is no talk of leadership change,” Zubiri told reporters in a text message.

The Senate leader said Sotto still enjoys the “strong trust and confidence” of the reelectionist senators and their colleagues who have continuing terms.

”I’m not sure who wants to make a go for it but definitely, the combined bloc of the ‘Seatmates’ and ‘Macho’ bloc is a group to contend with,” he said.

The so-called “Macho” bloc includes Sotto, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and Sen. Gregorio Honasan, whose second term in Senate will end in July.

Former senator and actor Lito Lapid, who is ranking in the possible winners of the recently-concluded polls, was also part of their group.

Zubiri also noted that Sen. Grace Poe, despite being an independent, is also close to Sotto, whose Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) adopted her as an honorary member.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Richard Gordon, Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Cynthia Villar, who are sitting next to each other in the Senate plenary, are also supporting their current Senate president, he added.

Zubiri also expects ex-senator Pia Cayetano and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos to back Sotto should they win this year’s senatorial elections.

Cayetano and Marcos are partymates of Villar in the Nacionalista Party. Villar, who is leading the senatorial race according to the partial and unofficial count, on Tuesday, said she is not interested to lead the Senate as she plans to continue her chairmanship of the Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Sotto assumed the Senate leadership on May 21 last year, after 16 members of the chamber’s majority bloc approved a resolution seeking a reorganization of the Senate and electing the former majority leader as their new chief.

He replaced former Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who earlier the same day, announced that he was stepping down. Pimentel then nominated Sotto as his successor, saying he supports his colleagues in their decision.

Sotto earlier said he is willing to step down should his colleagues in the majority bloc would want a leadership change.

But on Wednesday, he said some of his peers had assured him of their “unconditional support.”

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