The race for the Senate leadership was apparently out in the open after re-electionist Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel described Senator Franklin Drilon as the "future Senate President" in a campaign rally of Team PNoy here Thursday.
"Our future Senate President and he's not denying it," Pimentel said in acknowledging the presence of Drilon at the Pavia plaza here.
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Pimentel did not say if Drilon will be the next Senate President in case the senatorial candidates of Team PNoy win seats in the May midterm elections.
Drilon, campaign manager of Team PNoy, simply smiled when Pimentel surprisingly mentioned him as the replacement of Enrile.
Enrile, who has been at odds with some senators questioning his alleged irregular use of Senate funds, will end his term in the Senate in 2016. He has fielded his son Jack to run for senator under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) this May elections.
Although there was no actual endorsement of Drilon to lead the Senate, President Benigno S. Aquino III also did not hide his admiration for the senator during a campaign stop in his home province, saying the nation is "lucky" to have the "big man of the Senate."
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In asking the public to support the administration senatorial candidates in the May elections, the President said Drilon needs more allies in the Senate.
"Baka makalimutan naman po ninyo yun mga senador natin kung pwede dadaanan ko lang sandal, ha. Baka makalimutan ninyo ako bigyan ng kakampi sa Senado, patay naman yun ating big man kung nagiisa siya," Aquino said.
The President also thanked Drilon for ensuring the implementation of key government projects, including the Jalaur River reservoir project, in Iloilo province.
He said Drilon made sure the South Korean loan-funded irrigation project, first broached in the 1960s to boost farm production, augment power and water supply and mitigate floods in Iloilo, will finally be constructed and completed by 2016.
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"Uulitin ko ho, suwerte natin meron tayong Frank Drilon na nabasa iyong Republic Act noong tumanda na ho siya at napaalalang matagal ng ambisyon ng ating mga kababayan Ilonggo," Aquino said.
Drilon, who previously served as Senate President, proved to be a more popular politician compared to the administration senatorial candidates after he was given a standing ovation by the crowd at the Pavia campaign rally.
A resident of Pavia claimed that Drilon has contributed much to the province's economic development with his various projects.