By Peter Angelo Blaza and Katherine Elona
He was dubbed “The Big Man” in this year’s senatorial elections, running under the slogan: Big Justice – Mahirap Man o Mayaman. Five days after the polls, Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) was returned to the Senate, placing fourth in the race.
Drilon’s name soon came up as one of the probable LP bets for the post, the other being, former Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan.
According to recent news reports, LP was ushering Drilon,64, as their standard bearer for the senate presidency, with presumed president Benigno Aquino III leading the call.
However, LP will have a difficulty rallying votes as their party consists of only four senators: Drilon, Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto.
Drilon does not fall short on experience for the said position. He already served as senator from 1995 to 2007, and in 2000, became Senate President after he and Sen. Blas Ople agreed to replace Senate President Marcelo Fernan, who died that year.
After Edsa Dos, Drilon was returned as Senate President, serving from 2001 to 2006. He is the longest-serving Senate President post-Edsa, serving for a total of 6 years.
Prior to his stint in the Senate, Drilon already had his share of experience in campus politics in college, and in various government agencies.
Drilon has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree at the University of the Philippines (UP). He also finished his Bachelor of Laws in the same university in 1969, and placed third at the bar examinations that year.
Drilon later joined the Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz (ACCRA) Law Offices, one of the country’s premier law firms, and served as its senior associate and later managing partner until he retired in 1986 to enter government service.
He was first appointed by Pres. Corazon Aquino as deputy Minister of Industrial Relations and soon became Labor and Employment Secretary. In 1990, he was appointed Justice Secretary, and a year later became Executive Secretary. He would later be appointed again as Justice Secretary under Pres. Fidel Ramos.
As Justice Secretary, Drilon was known for spearheading the prosecution of influential personalities such as former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was behind a student rape-slay, and Claudio Teehankee Jr., son of a former justice secretary, who was involved in a gun-slay of three people.
In 1995, Drilon ran for a Senate position under the Lakas-Laban coalition and placed fourth. Three years later, he left Lakas-Laban and joined the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), supporting Vice-Pres. Joseph Estrada’s presidential bid. He became senate majority leader the same year and was one of the senators who voted for the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999.
In 2001, he ran for re-election under the People Power Coalition (PPC), which supported incumbent Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Drilon was known to be an Arroyo ally until the Hello Garci Scandal came about in 2005.
Drilon went back to work at the ACCRA Law Offices as senior counsel in 2004. He continued to work there after leaving the Senate in 2007 when his term ended.
During the 2010 campaign period, one of the issues thrown at Drilon were his constantly shifting politician alliances. Drilon admitted in a television interview that he joined different coalitions before but he had never been a member of any political party other than LP, which he joined in 2004 and became its president until 2008.
Another issue Drilon faced was the allegation of graft during the construction of the P8.7 billion Iloilo International Airport. In the same interview, Drilon said he had never earned a single peso from the project, nor was he involved in any of the negotiations made until its completion. He also wondered aloud why this issue was only brought up recently, when the airport had been operational for five years already.