Cayetano Back from US; Senate Leadership Issue Up

Article excerpt

Byline: MARIO B. CASAYURAN

Ailing administration Sen. Renato Cayetano arrived yesterday from a liver transplant operation in the United States but his return set off questions of whether or not he is fit to assume the Senate presidency under a power-sharing agreement he had forged with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon in August, 2001.

Another question is whether or not his colleagues in the majority bloc are still bound by that agreement which was supposed to have taken effect last January in the first half of the three-year 12th Congress.

Drilon has stated that he would respect the agreement but the decision on who his colleagues would install as Senate chief is a different matter.

The Senate chief was non-committal yesterday about the power-sharing agreement as he was reported set to visit Cayetano at his Ayala Alabang Village (Las Pinas City) residence.

Cayetano planed in yesterday morning aboard Philippine Airlines Flight PR 103 with his son, Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and other members of the Cayetano family.

Cayetano had a liver transplant at the University of California hospital in Los Angeles with one of his sons as donor.

Congressman Cayetano said his father is resting and trying to gain strength in the senator's residence and that his father would later disclose matters related to his hospitalization.

Senator Cayetano was away for almost seven months.

Dr. Ernesto Domingo of the Makati Medical Center (MMC) and Dr. Carlos Ramirez of the National Kidney Institute (NKI) reportedly helped attend to the senator during his stay in the US.

Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Flavier, one of the 11 senators who signed the term-sharing agreement between Drilon and Cayetano, said he is optimistic that Drilon would honor the agreement.

Administration Sen. Joker Arroyo, who is not a signatory to the agreement, verbally voted "yes" to the agreement, Flavier said.

"Whether or not all are willing to honor the agreement , that is the question," he said.

Arroyo, interviewed at the Senate session hall yesterday, said the power-sharing agreement is between Drilon and Cayetano.

"We will sit down with the majority and discuss the matter," administration Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.

Administration Sen. Robert Z. Barbers said Drilon will honor the agreement as all of them in the majority bloc are 100 percent behind Cayetano taking over the Senate helm.

"He (Cayetano) should sit down now but he is now recuperating. We will wait until he is fit and able. I don't see any reason why he (Cayetano) cannot assume the Senate presidency," Barbers emphasized.

On reports that others would undermine the agreement with the support of some opposition senators, Barbers was emphatic that "the administration bloc is intact."

Administration Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. advised against changing the Senate leadership now as Congress was scheduled to have adjourned since die yesterday.

"The Senate presidency issue needs consensus. Many factors had changed since," Magsaysay said.

Administration Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations and finance committees, said he was glad that his friend, Cayetano, had returned and is well.

"I suppose when he is ready, he should take over because of the agreement (with Drilon and signed by majority bloc senators). He should take over at the opening of the (third regular) session (of the 12th Congress)," Villar said.

"Yung mga kasamahan niya ay handa namang sumunod sa usapan. …