Pacquiao may head two Senate committees: Sotto

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Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao (right) poses with the head of Indonesia's House of Representatives (DPR) Setya Novanto during a courtesy call in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday. Pacquiao earlier visited convicted Filipino drug mule Mary Jane Veloso at an Indonesian prison. (MNS photo)

Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao (right) poses with the head of Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) Setya Novanto during a courtesy call in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday. Pacquiao earlier visited convicted Filipino drug mule Mary Jane Veloso at an Indonesian prison. (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – Boxing champ and Senator-elect Manny Pacquiao may head two committees when he assumes his Senate post in July.

On Thursday, Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, the prospective majority leader, said Pacquiao will likely chair the Senate committee on games, amusement, and sports.

But Pacquiao may also chair the committee on public works, which Pacquiao himself asked for.

“Ang first pick ni Senator Pacquiao nung nag-uusap na kami nitong nakaraang araw ay public works,” said Sotto.

Pacquiao, who was criticized for his frequent absences in the House of Representatives when he was Sarangani representative, had earlier said he would aim to have a perfect attendance in the Senate.

Committee chairmanships

Committee chairmanships are vital as bills have to go through committees first before they are tackled in plenary. If a bill is not passed at the committee level, it has no hope of becoming a law.

With the Senate presidency practically in the bag for Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, a party-mate of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, the large group of senators supporting him have now begun to discuss how to divide among themselves the chairmanships of the chamber’s powerful committees.

Sotto said the Senate will carefully scrutinize pending bills even though they are open to passing into law Duterte’s proposed legislation.

“We’re ready to provide the check and balance. The important thing is the Senate remains independent, but with a working relationship,” said Sotto, pointing out that he and prospective Senate President Pro-tempore Franklin Drilon are not Duterte’s party-mates.

Senator-elect Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, is expected to head the committee on public order and dangerous drugs which will likely deliberate on the Duterte administration’s proposals to suppress crime in the country.

The powerful finance committee, which will deliberate on the proposed national budget, will once again be headed by incumbent chair Senator Loren Legarda.

“Siya yung incumbent ngayon and she would be the most neutral,” said Sotto.

Sen. Grace Poe, one of Duterte’s rivals in the 2016 presidential race, will head the public services committee, according to Sotto.

Poe previously headed a public services subcommittee which investigated complaints about the MRT.

According to Sotto, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano can have the chairmanship of the powerful Blue Ribbon committee which investigates government anomalies—if he joins Pimentel’s group instead of seeking the Senate presidency himself.

New faces

Some incumbent senators are expected to retain the chairmanships of their committees, such as Sen. Juan Angara who, according to Sotto, will continue to head the ways and means committee that deliberates on tax measures.

Angara had earlier said he wants to keep heading the committee to continue hearings on lower taxes.

Sen. Gringo Honasan, a former Army officer, will head the committee on national defense.

Senator Bam Aquino will head the committee on education, while Senator Nancy Binay will handle either the tourism or the energy committee.

Senator-elect Kiko Pangilinan will head the agriculture committee, according to Sotto. Pangilinan once served as President Benigno Aquino III’s adviser on agriculture and food security.

Newcomers who will be joining the majority will also be given committee chairmanships related to their previous posts.

Senator-elect Leila de Lima, a former justice secretary and chair of the Commission on Human Rights, will chair the committee on justice and human rights.

Former Philhealth director Risa Hontiveros will head the Senate health committee; while former TESDA director-general Joel Villanueva will chair the committee on labor and employment.

For his part, Senator Ralph Recto said he is not asking for any committee for the 17th Congress. Instead, he said he is still weighing his options, which include joining the minority bloc.

“Am not asking for any committee. [I’m] studying my options including joining the minority,” he said.

Recto is the Senate pro-tempore during the 16th Congress.(MNS)

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