And the greatest Senate president of the Philippines was…

May 18, 2018 - 4:25 PM
Clockwise from left: Eulogio Rodriguez Sr., Jovito Salonga, Manuel L. Quezon and Blas Ople

With the initiative of 14 senators, the Senate of the Philippines will be electing a new Senate president, Vicente Sotto III. Some Filipinos have started to look back on the other storied names in politics who were chosen to lead the upper house of the legislative branch.

Jovito Salonga

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay recently remarked on who he believed set the standard for the senate presidency. His nominee was no other than the late Jovito Salonga.

Salonga, who passed away in 2016, was first elected to the Senate in 1965, garnering the highest numbers of votes among all the candidates. He was known as “The Nation’s Fiscalizer.”

Among his noted legislation were the State Scholarship Law, the Disclosure of Interest Act, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder.

He was a known critic of the Marcos regime, and was among the victims of the Plaza Miranda Bombing. Salonga was appointed as the first chair of the newly-created Presidential Commission on Good Government or PCGG in 1986 by Corazon Aquino.

He was elected as senator once more in 1987. It was during his time as leader of the upper chamber that the Senate rejected the renewal of Philippines-United States bases treaty.

Before he became senator, Salonga fought with the resistance during the Japanese occupation. He topped the 1944 bar exam with a score 95.3 percent, tied with another future senator and fellow dissident, Jose Diokno.

Manuel L. Quezon

A discussion on Quora meanwhile makes a case for the first man to become president of the Senate: Manuel Luis Quezon.

Quezon was the inaugural president of the Philippine Senate, holding onto the position from 1916 to 1935. It was then the highest position a native Filipino could hold at the time.

As a senator, Quezon led the first Independence Mission that lobbied for the granting of independence to the Philippines. This culminated in the passing of the Tydings-McDuffie Act and the path to independence for the Philippines.

He was eventually elected president in the first national elections in 1935.

An autobiography posted on the personal website of his grandson Manuel Quezon III discusses the late former president’s origins as the son of two Spanish schoolteachers who would later go on to fight as revolutionary in the Philippine Insurrection, and eventually enter the law profession.

Senate presidents leading impeachments

With recent discussions of impeachment over the accusations against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Filipinos on social media also recalled the role Senate presidents played in impeachment trials.

Juan Ponce Enrile is remembered for this exchange with the lead counsel for the defense in the impeachment trial of the Renato Corona, the late Serafin Cuevas.

In the exchange documented by ANC, Enrile schools Cuevas, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, on some basic concepts in criminal law.

Father and son have also held the senate presidency at one point.

Aquilino Pimentel Jr. was Senate president from 2000 to 2001, leading the Senate during the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada.

His son, Aquilino III meanwhile sat as senate president from 2016 up until recently.

Complete list Senate presidents

  1. Manuel L. Quezon Sr.
  2. Manuel Roxas
  3. José Avelino
  4. Mariano Jesús Cuenco
  5. Quintin Paredes
  6. Camilo Osías
  7. Eulogio Rodriguez Sr.
  8. Jose Zulueta
  9. Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
  10. Arturo Tolentino
  11. Gil Puyat
  12. Jovito Salonga
  13. Neptali Gonzales
  14. Edgardo Angara
  15. Neptali Gonzales
  16. Ernesto Maceda Sr.
  17. Marcelo Fernan
  18. Blas Ople
  19. Franklin Drilon
  20. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
  21. Manny Villar
  22. Juan Ponce Enrile
  23. Jinggoy Estrada (acting)
  24. Aquilino Pimentel III