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Philippines President Benigno Aquino allies elected as heads of Senate and House of Representatives

This would mark more clout while making it easier to pass bills

Image Credit: AP
President Benigno Aquino conducting his fourth State of the Nation Address during the jointsession of Congress in the House of Representatives.
Gulf News

Manila: After three years in office, President Benigno Aquino finally controlled the two houses of Congress, with the election of his allies as leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives, making him less of a lame duck in the last three years of his administration that will end in 2016.

Senator Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party won 17 votes on Monday’s elections, ousting his closest rival, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who mustered six votes.

At the opening of Congress, Enrile, an oppositionist who led the senate from 2010 until this year, became a minority leader.

At the same time, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, also of the Liberal Party, regained his post with more than 200 votes, edging rivals in the opposition like Congressmen Ronnie Zamora and Martin Romualdez. Zamora became minority floor leader.

President Aquino also gained more allies in the Senate with the election of Nationalista Party members last May 2013, following a tactical coalition of the Liberal Party and the Nationalista Party, which is led by Senator Manny Villar, Aquino’s major rival in the May 2010 presidential elections.

Since 2010, Aquino has taken control of the lower house of Congress.

This year would mark more clout for Aquino and pushing his priority bills will become easier at the door of Congress.

One of the most controversial bills being pushed in Congress is divorce law. The Philippines is one of the few countries without a divorce law. 98 per cent of Filipinos belong to the Catholic Church.

Annulment of the civil aspect of a marriage is already allowed by the Philippine government. Proponents of the proposed divorce law say that they want more protection for women like alimony for their upkeep and their children’s welfare, when they are formally separated from their husband, a provision that is lacking in the law that allows civil annulment of marriage.

Moreover, couples whose marriages are annulled must still get from the Vatican church annulment of their marriage before they are allowed to get married for the second time in a Catholic Church.

Majority of Filipinos want to be married in a church.

This year, Congress approved the controversial “reproductive health bill,” which allows government to subsidise the family planning programme of poor people. The influential Catholic Church campaigned against the passage of this bill.

The Supreme Court imposed a restraining order for the implementation of the law in response to 15 respondents who said it is unconstitutional.