Press Release
May 29, 2019

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III on ANC with Karmina Constantino

Q: What can you tell us about the committee chairmanships? Which committee will go to which senator?

SP Sotto: Well, most of this could be traced to three years ago. The senators elected three years ago, had a chance to be elected to the different committees that they handle. They are here for the next six years, so we call them the incumbents, and there is a tradition in the Senate that we call the equity of the incumbent in choosing the chairmanships. They have work that they have started, they have to continue most of the bills that they started hearing, or filed, therefore, that is the reason for that, the equity. Now, there are new senators and some come-backing senators we call them, that again, there were six reelectionists, that won and most of them have their own committees already when they were there as incumbents from the 17th Congress. Now, we must practice what we call a consensus building or the art of compromise because the newcomers would want some major committees and most of these major committees are being handled by incumbent senators. That is where the problem lies. So we have to build the consensus of the members, we have to talk to those who would be willing to forego their committees and offer another committee. That's how it works. It's not an easy job and it is not left to the discretion of the Senate President contrary to what others think. It is always the members of the majority that votes for the chairman.

Q: Do you think with the jockeying that is happening right now and with this consensus building or maybe even good will between and among the senators, do you think that this will foster or build up to a threat to your Senate Presidency?

SP Sotto: No, I don't think so. As a matter of fact, right now there are probably only two or three committees that are really giving us a headache.

Q: Including the finance committee?

SP Sotto: No, no. The finance committee, nobody wants to take it so we are going to elect Senator Sonny Angara to the finance committee whether he likes it or not.

Q: So what are the three committees?

SP Sotto: Also the ways and means committee, nobody wants to take it, so we will most probably elect who we think would be good for the job. There are committees that two or three members of the Senate would want, but then again there are incumbents. Some of the committees that are open, there are no takers.

Q: The ways and means, I understand that Senator-elect de la Rosa would want to have a chance at that?

SP Sotto: I don't think so, I heard it, that Imee Marcos is interested in the ways and means committee. Senator Bato de la Rosa I think is interested in the committee on illegal drugs and this is a very good example of another senator who, more or less a very senior Senator Lacson, is willing to give it to Senator de la Rosa. An experienced Senator knows that being chair of any committee is not really that important. You can be very participative or very involved in any of the committees even if you are not a chair or a vice-chair, or not even a member. It's not a title.

Q: Mr. Senate President, I just want to go back to what you were saying a while ago and apologize cutting there, but you said there are three committees that are giving you a problem? What are these problematic committees?

SP Sotto: The committee on education, the committee on justice, blue ribbon, public services, those four committees.

Q: What does that look like? How does it look like right now?

SP Sotto: If they cannot agree to a consensus, and they cannot master what we have tried to master before, although unsuccessfully, that is the art of compromise, I will toss it with the body. The majority of the members will have to elect who they think should be the chair of those committees but like for example, in the issue of justice and blue ribbon, Senator Gordon is an incumbent. How can we remove him, unless he would be willing to give up one?

Q: Mr. Senate President, this game you have to play really well because it might just translate into threatening your Senate Presidency. Is this something you would fight tooth and nail for? Retaining the Senate Presidency?

SP Sotto: First of all, I am Senate President because I was elected by my peers. I serve at the pleasure of the majority. They can replace me anytime and I will have no qualms about it. Now, just because of one or two committees or one or two senators, there will be a shakeup of the leadership, I doubt it. It has never happened.

Q: The 18th Congress hasn't even been convened and already there is talk of investigating Senator Antonio Trillanes for his role in a n alleged plot to oust the President, is this something that you would want to happen?

SP Sotto: I leave it to the chairmen of the committees involved. For me, as Senate President, I would rather concentrate on the legislative agenda. The investigations, unless I am needed, I leave it to the chairmen of the different committees to handle.

Q: You are nearing thirty years of being a Senator. How would you characterize what the 18th Congress will be?

SP Sotto: That is a very good question. That is a question I cannot answer now.

Q: How would you want it to be?

SP Sotto: I would want it to be independent transparent, sincere. The way we tried our best to the 17th Congress Senate and if I maintain the leadership, that's our goal. Remain independent, transparent and sincere to our jobs.

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